Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, used a radio show last week to question the way public universities are admitting out-of-state applicants. On WTOP's "Ask the Governor," he answered a question about whether Virginia residents should be worried about in state-applicants being rejected in favor of those from out of state, he said “absolutely, and not only worried, it’s just factual.” He added: "Some [schools] are a third to 40 percent out-of-staters because they pay so much more tuition, and that’s how they balance their budgets, so yes they should be concerned and that’s something we need to look at."
Data from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia show that while Virginia's competitive universities are admitting substantial numbers of out-of-staters, the admission rate is significantly higher for those from Virginia. At the University of Virginia, 1,214 of those who started last fall were from out of state, compared to 2,537 from Virginia. The admit rate for Virginians was 44 percent while that for out-of-state applicants was 23 percent.
Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential candidate, on Friday used a speech at the annual meeting of the National Urban League to criticize Governor Jeb Bush, a candidate for the Republican nomination who was to speak later that day. Clinton said she was pleased that other candidates would be attending, but said that she was concerned about a "mismatch" between what candidates tell groups like the Urban League and what they actually do. She didn't name Bush by name, but several times referenced "Right to Rise," the name of Bush's political action committee. People "can't rise if their governor makes it harder to get a college education," she said.
Clinton's apparent reference was to the impact of Bush, which governor of Florida, ending the consideration of race and ethnicity by Florida's public universities. Black enrollment dropped significantly at the University of Florida as a result. The same is true for Florida State University. And while Latino higher education enrollments have increased, many credit the state's population boom for that, and suggest that Bush's policies did not -- as he has boasted -- encourage those gains.
In his remarks at the National Urban League, Bush did not respond to what Clinton said. But he did say that, while he was governor, "we expanded our community college system and made it more affordable for low-income families. Florida in those years helped thousands more first-generation college students make it all the way to graduation."
The University of Pennsylvania on Thursday announced changes in its policies on admissions tests. One change is that Penn will recommend two SAT subject tests of all applicants (with specific recommendations on those tests for applicants to some programs). Up until now, Penn required the SAT subject tests only of those applicants who submitted scores on the SAT. Now they will be recommended for those who submit ACT scores as well.
In another change, Penn will no longer require the essay portion of the writing tests of the SAT or ACT.
A statement from Eric Furda, dean of admissions, said that "our internal analysis as well as a review of the extensive research provided by the College Board showed that the essay component of the SAT was the least predictive element of the overall writing section of the SAT. Given the impending redesign of the SAT and PSAT/NMSQT, which will make the essay portion of the assessment optional, we could no longer support requiring the essay portion of either exam given its weaker predictive power.”
Furda stressed that Penn would continue to focus on applicants' writing abilities, but would use other ways to do so.
The Common Application, which historically has required colleges to use an essay to demonstrate commitment to "holistic" admissions, last year announced that it would allow its members to no longer require an essay. When the next version of the Common Application goes live in August, about 20 percent of the 600 colleges will no longer require an essay -- at least not through the Common Application, a spokesperson said. Some of them could require an essay as part of their own supplemental applications, she added.
The University of California is about to start accepting letters of recommendation from undergraduate applicants. Most highly competitive private institutions do so (and many require such letters), as do many public flagships. Berkeley will accept one letter from a teacher and one from someone else for each applicant. In an essay in The Los Angeles Times, Ben Wildavsky notes some of the discussion about this new policy. Some see it as an end-run around California's ban on considering race in admissions, since letter writers may play up the disadvantages faced by black and Latino applicants. Others, however, think the letters may favor those who are wealthy and well connected, and who may be more likely to attend high schools where teachers have lots of experience in writing such letters, and time to do so.
In today's Academic Minute, Robert Kelchen, a professor of higher education at Seton Hall University, discusses research on ways to improve the efficiency of getting into colleges. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.
The Dallas Morning News on Monday published information about the letters sent by numerous powerful individuals seeking to influence the admissions process at the University of Texas at Austin. Word of the letters (and the letter writers) is setting off new scrutiny of admissions at the university, with many of the powerful saying that they didn't necessarily follow up or seeking to punish the university for disregarding requests. Some letter writers were quite honest that they didn't know much about the applicant on whose behalf they wrote. W. A. Moncrief, an oil executive who has given at least $25 million to UT, wrote on behalf of one applicant: “I do not know this young man or anything about his qualifications, but I do know [the student’s] parents and I know his grandparents very well.” Moncrief added that the student “is certainly from a very fine and highly respected family.”