[Guest post by DRJ]
It’s getting harder to gain admission to elite colleges, especially this year in which there are a record 3.3 million high school graduates and 60-65% are going to college.
Take the case of Navonil Ghosh, an Austin, Texas, magnet high school senior who scored perfect scores on the SAT and ACT, is 4th in his class, plays the piano, has a black belt in Kung Fu, and has more than 400 hours of volunteer time. Yet his applications were rejected at Stanford, MIT, Harvard, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton and the University of Texas Plan II honors program. Ghosh was waitlisted at Yale and plans to attend either CalTech or Rice, where he was accepted.
Stories like this aren’t that surprising for those familiar with current college admissions. There are so many impressive applicants at elite colleges that schools can afford to be selective. In addition, because colleges emphasize the US News ranking factors such as yield (the percentage of accepted students that actually attend the college), private colleges want to admit only those applicants who are likely to attend.
Not only is demand up but the cost of college tuition is increasing faster than inflation or household income. Steven Pearlstein addressed rising costs last November in an article at the Washington Post:
“Part of the problem is that it’s virtually impossible to have a coherent conversation about an industry that takes in Harvard, East Podunk Community College and everything in between.
It’s also hard to bring economic logic to a market in which the product is usually sold at a loss, competition tends to push prices higher rather than lower, and at many schools, half the customers are forced to subsidize the other half.”
Pearlstein identifies several problems that are contributing to spiraling tuition costs, including the financial assistance race to entice better students and the fact that demand for college is growing faster than supply.
Growing tuition costs have caused some applicants and parents to reconsider the benefits of an elite college education. As a result, lower-cost colleges and state schools may be benefiting from the increased competition and costs at elite colleges, although costs are going up there, too.
Of course, there will always be colleges like the University of Colorado that are attractive to applicants because of the special atmosphere:
“A crowd of about 10,000 people collectively began counting down on the University of Colorado’s Norlin Quadrangle just before 4:20 p.m. Sunday.
Yet the massive puff of pot smoke that hovers over CU’s Boulder campus every April 20 — the date of an annual, internationally recognized celebration of marijuana — began rising over the sea of heads earlier than normal this year.
Smoke-out participants — thousands of whom wore green or T-shirts promoting pot — climbed trees, played the bongos, snapped pictures and had miniature picnics. That, of course, after they sparked the weed they had come to smoke.
CU freshman Emily Benson, 19, of Kansas City, said she thinks the decriminalization of marijuana will become a hot topic in the upcoming political season and said she felt part of something bigger than just a smoke-out on Sunday.
“We’re at the starting point of a movement,” she said. “This is a big part of the reason I applied here — for the weed atmosphere.”
I’m sure Emily will have wonderful college stories to tell her children someday.