Three dozen students picketed the admissions office at Smith College Thursday to demand a change in the institution's policy with regard to transgender students, The Republican reported. Smith does not discriminate against transgender students once they are enrolled, but the college only admits women. The protest called for Smith to admit those who may be listed as male on their high school transcripts but have been living as women. Here is how Smith explains its admissions policy with regard to transgender applicants: "An application from a transgender student is treated no differently from other applications: every application Smith receives is considered on a case-by-case basis. Like most women’s colleges, Smith expects that, to be eligible for review, a student’s application and supporting documentation (transcripts, recommendations, etc.) will reflect her status as a woman."
The Community College of Baltimore County was sued in federal court this week by a student rejected for admission to a competitive radiation therapy program, he says, because of his religious views, The Baltimore Sun reported. According to the suit (available online here), he was rejected because of his answer to an interview question about what was most important to him. His answer was "My God." The suit includes text of an email from the program director, responding to the student's request for details about why he was rejected. The director said (according to the suit): "I understand that religion is a major part of your life and that was evident in your recommendation letters, however, this field is not the place for religion. We have many patients who come to us for treatment from many different religions and some who believe in nothing. If you interview in the future, you may want to leave your thoughts and beliefs out of the interview process." The suit maintains that he met or exceeded the program's requirements.
College officials did not respond to requests for comment, citing a policy not to do so about pending litigation. But in court filings they have questioned whether the student was sufficiently "motivated by an individual passion in the field." Further, they said that because the student has a criminal record, he would have difficulty getting a job in the field in Maryland.
A new study in Education Next argues that the primary impact of the "10 percent" plan in Texas -- under which those in the top 10 percent of high school graduating classes are assured admission to the public university of their choice in Texas -- has been more on where students enroll, not whether they enroll. The study looks at students in a large urban district, comparing those who just made it into the top 10 percent and those who didn't. The student found those in the top 10 percent are much more likely than the other group to enroll in a flagship university, but they do so at the expense of enrolling at private colleges, and were likely headed to college either way.
A rejected black applicant to the University of Michigan participated in protests last week, charging that the university could increase its black enrollment by admitting students like her, The Detroit Free Press reported. In going public with her story, supporters of affirmative action said that they were trying to focus (as critics of affirmative action have done) on the compelling stories of those turned away. In this case, the rejected applicant is Brooke Kimbrough, who has a 3.6 grade-point average and an ACT score of 23. While supporters said that she could succeed at Michigan, critics said that the university was correct to turn her down, given that her academic record wasn't superior to those getting in. According to the university, the average high school G.P.A. is 3.85 and the 50th percentile of admitted students have ACT composite scores of 29-33.
Nine people were killed and many more injured Thursday when a truck crossed over the median on a highway and struck a bus carrying high school students from Los Angeles on a college trip to visit Humboldt State University, The Los Angeles Times reported. A statement from Humboldt State said that the students were en route to the university, the northernmost in the California State University System, as part of the Preview Plus Program, which brings low-income and first generation students from San Francisco and Los Angeles high schools to the campus.
President Obama has said that even with a divided Congress, he has access to the phone and the pen. The White House summit on access was an example of what could be accomplished after phone calls, bringing together leaders from over 100 institutions to strengthen commitments to increasing college opportunity for low-income students.
One phone call that the president should make now is to U.S.News and World Report, asking editors to include socioeconomic diversity in more meaningful ways in their college and university rankings. If the Obama administration wants greater commitment on the part of colleges and universities to spend additional resources on financial aid, it needs to create greater incentives for them to do so. Changing the rankings would be a step in the right direction. U.S. News claims that its ranking already does this. But, if this were in fact the case, the rankings wouldn’t change as much as they do when a direct measure of socioeconomic diversity is added. And of course, the federal government could have a more direct impact by tying access to federal subsidies more directly to success on socioeconomic diversity.
Today, any dollar spent on need-based financial aid receives little credit in the U.S. News rankings, and also means not spending it on things that do count, such as small classes or faculty resources. Since most colleges include a commitment to the diversity of their student bodies as part of their mission, such a change should not be objectionable.
What would be the impact? The table below shows the rankings of the top 20 (plus ties) of national universities and of liberal arts colleges, according to U.S.News and World Report's latest rankings. A second ranking for each group of institutions is listed, which includes two variables that represent socioeconomic diversity. The first is the share of Pell Grant recipients. This is reported as the difference between the actual share of Pell Grant recipients and what would be expected given the academic selectivity of the school (measured simply as the share of students from the bottom two quintiles of the income distribution with the required SAT scores in the national pool). A positive number means the school is doing really well by low-income students. The second measure is the share of students on need-based financial aid, again relative to what would be expected given the school’s selectivity.
In this case, the share of students in the national pool from the bottom 80 percent of the income distribution with adequate SATs is used to measure what would be expected given the selectivity of the school. The rankings change when socioeconomic diversity is included. (Note: I’ve just included the rank of each school on the two measures of socioeconomic diversity and given them a 25 percent weight. U.S. News would do it in a different way, but the fact that including these variables would change the rankings would remain the case.)
There is much criticism of the U.S. News rankings, including that any unique ranking of schools based on a variety of variables can’t possible indicate for any individual student and family whether the college is a good match. But these rankings don’t seem to be going away and they do create incentives for schools. If the Obama administration is serious about increasing the incentives for schools to allocate resources to financial aid, encouraging U.S.News and World Report to change its rankings would help. A phone call from President Obama just might accomplish this.
1st-time undergrads receiving
local or institutional grants
The Project on Fair Representation, the legal team that has brought many legal challenges to the consideration of race, is looking for new plaintiffs. On Monday, the project announced that it has created three websites to invite people to indicate that they feel they have been the victims of discrimination in admissions. The sites seek plaintiffs against Harvard University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Officials with the project have in the past said that affirmative action hurts Asian applicants, an argument that appears related to the photos on the home page of each website.