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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

To gain public trust, make college admissions less 'murky'



College admissions are "murky," and getting murkier, writes Peter Arcidiacono, a Duke economics professor, on Persuasion.


"Test-optional" policies can be used to "avoid scrutiny and potentially obscure the continued use of race in the admissions process (an end-run around the Supreme Court’s ruling)."


The result, he writes, is to erode "trust in education, further favor the rich, and waste students’ time applying to colleges where they have no hope of admission."


Honesty would be the best policy, writes Arcidiacono, who testified against Harvard in the affirmative action case.


Universities have been giving massive preferences on the basis of race and legacy status for years, consistently claiming that these factors played only a small role in their admissions processes. This was false — as access to data readily reveals. Worse, these preferences have been growing over time.

Trust in the universities' claims "has worn very thin," he writes. Transparent admissions policies would be a start to rebuilding trust.


In addition, colleges need to use "data to show how the education they offer affects the earnings, graduation rates, and career satisfaction of their students," he writes. "And what if they’re not doing a good job with some subset of students? Instead of pretending that they’re doing fine, they could be honest about it and invest the resources to change the situation."


Students from disadvantaged backgrounds, who know less about how the system works, would benefit the most from this, he writes.

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