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Friday, April 23, 2004
 
Stupid Smart People

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At prestigious universities around the country, from flagship state colleges to the Ivy League, more and more students from upper-income families are edging out those from the middle class, according to university data.
...
More members of this year's freshman class at the University of Michigan have parents making at least $200,000 a year than have parents making less than the national median of about $53,000, according to a survey of Michigan students. At the most selective private universities across the country, more fathers of freshmen are doctors than are hourly workers, teachers, clergy members, farmers or members of the military combined.
This issue is not complicated. In the time of the baby boomers, higher education became the great equalizer. Almost all colleges, including the elite and highly selective breed, saw it as their mission to broaden access to education and the benefits that follow to those who had traditionally been shut out. This was accomplished through a variety of measures.

Schools reformed their selection criteria away from simple calculations of test scores, GPA and proper breeding to include many different measures of potential students. But times have changed and once again, wealth has shown itself to be a primary, and perhaps causal, indicator of a student's likelihood of admission to an elite school. The system has become gamed by private high school counselors and expensive test prep services like Sylvan.

I was witness to a counselor at a very exclusive high school telling the mother of a prospective student:

"If you tell us what college you would like [X] to attend, we can draw up a plan based upon their (the college's) admission requirements. And as long as he follows that plan, you can bet that he will get in."

This was in 1984.

In another incident, the mother of a friend called up the admissions department at the University of Michigan and bullied her daughter off the waiting list and into a slot by threatening to raise hell in the local media because "a black girl from [her daughter's high school] was accepted with lower grades and worse test scores".

This was in 1988.

The problem has only gotten worse.

The infamous "Greed is Good!" speech from the '80's movie Wall Street is no longer an admonition. It is gospel to much of America. Hence the idea that you are "buying your way in" is no longer socially unacceptable. And the trappings that come from being able to list such a school on a resume are priceless.

One of the dirty little secrets of college financial aid is that the wealthy kids pay for the poor kids. For this reason, among many others, colleges recruit rich kids as fervently as they *claim* to recruit a "diverse" student body. In the current formula you need one to have the other.

Solution: Maybe, just maybe... this will bring back the promise of equal access for all.
 
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“There’s a lot of money to pay for this that doesn’t have to be U.S. taxpayer money, and it starts with the assets of the Iraqi people…and on a rough recollection, the oil revenues of that country could bring between $50 and $100 billion over the course of the next two or three years…We’re dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon.” -Paul Wolfowitz

Cost of the War in Iraq
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