Ideas para reformar la admisión: debate en los EEUU
Febrero 1, 2020

captura-de-pantalla-2019-03-12-a-las-13-39-50How to Stand Up for Equity in Admissions? Experts Share 5 Ideas


Los Angeles

On Tuesday morning, Robert J. Massa described a daunting goal: Restoring the public’s faith in the admissions process.

At the University of Southern California’s Center for Enrollment Research, Policy and Practice’s annual conference, admissions officials, college counselors, and policy experts spent two days assessing numerous challenges while nodding at the elephant in the room. You know, the big, ugly one called Operation Varsity Blues.

“We have more power as enrollment officers to lead than we think we do.”

Massa, a longtime enrollment leader, described how in the wake of the scandal, the profession must grapple with questions about the meaning of merit, the role that wealth plays in the process, and how selective colleges can enroll more low-income and first-generation students. “It’s time for a national conversation and assessment of college-admissions practices,” he said. “Where do we go from here?”

Massa put the question to a panel of experts, asking them to describe the “action items” they would propose for their own campuses or the system in general. Here are five ideas they shared without once mentioning Lori Loughlin.


Jonathan Burdick, vice provost for enrollment at Cornell University, said the nation’s most selective institutions could better serve the public by expanding their enrollments. But he didn’t just mean putting more butts in seats.

Four-year institutions, Burdick said, must expand their definition of a viable student to include more veterans, returning adults, migrant students, and applicants from often-overlooked nations. Citing projections for population growth in Africa, he said U.S. colleges tend to “leave it as a blank spot” on the student-recruitment map.

As long as the nation’s most selective colleges serve a relatively narrow band of students, everyone else will continue to have good reasons for mistrusting those institutions.

Use New Tools

Burdick said he wanted to “reimagine every tool” used in evaluations of applicants.

Sure, any college can assess the utility of its ACT/SAT requirement and decide whether to go test-optional or not. But what about other reliable measures of academic skills and personal attributes? Burdick imagined a future would deliver a more diverse array of assessments that better capture “the whole set of things students are good at it.”

 Data science, machine learning, artificial intelligence. All of the above, he said, could soon play a larger role in admissions work: “We often say this is a purely human process — it’s not. It’s very, very much an industrial process.”

Embrace ‘Holistic Financial Aid’

Sure, you’ve heard of holistic admissions, in which colleges assess various attributes of “the whole student” besides grades and test scores. But does your college practice “holistic financial aid”?

That’s the term Youlonda Copeland-Morgan used to describe a highly flexible aid-awarding process that takes each applicant’s unique circumstances into account. Colleges, she said, can’t meet students’ needs by relying on formulas that are too rigid, with fixed loan and work-study amounts.

“We know so much about our students at the point of admission,” said Copeland-Morgan, vice provost for enrollment management at the University of California at Los Angeles. “But when we get to the second-most important part of access in the process, we totally ignore a lot of it.”

Students who don’t get enough aid often struggle. Students who struggle often have a bad experience in college and/or end up dropping out. Looking back, they might well suspect that their college cared more about enrolling them than ensuring their success.

And that, Copeland-Morgan insisted, shakes the public’s faith in colleges. “We have to stand for more than getting students in the door,” she said. “If we focus more on the quality of a student’s experience, we would at least make a little bit of progress in terms of regaining the public’s trust.”

Make Equity a Campuswide Question

Copeland-Morgan urged colleges to conduct a “courageous equity assessment.” That is, to examine how diverse (or not) your campus is.

“If the admissions office is only place doing that, it’s a problem,” she said. “If you’re really committed to diversity, you should see it in the composition of boards, faculty, and staff.”

Whatever the case, Copeland-Morgan encouraged enrollment leaders to own the conversation about campus diversity. It can be a chore to help campus leaders see demographic changes as merely an admissions-office concern, as opposed to a future-of-the-college concern. But someone has to do it.

One suggestion from Copeland-Morgan: Circulate more information that might help campus stakeholders understand the racial, socioeconomic, and geographic diversity of students your institution serves to better show “the great complexity of the class beyond their test scores.”

“Too often we sit on data,” Copeland-Morgan said. “We have more power as enrollment officers to lead than we think we do.”

Challenge Leadership

Stefanie Niles, vice president for enrollment and communications at Ohio Wesleyan University, seconded that notion.

Nope, your college’s mission statement might not say anything about, say, educating students of color. But enrollment leaders are well-positioned to explain why it’s an imperative.

“We must be willing to challenge our senior leaders,” Niles said, “to examine whether our institutions’ missions need to evolve.”

In the end, colleges can’t just talk, spin, or market their way to trustworthiness. “It’s not just telling our stories better,” Niles said, “but doing our jobs better.”

Eric Hoover writes about the challenges of getting to, and through, college. Follow him on Twitter @erichoov, or email him, at [email protected].


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