Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Slamming the door: Restricting access to elite education and why it might not matter

YaleSlamming the door:
Restricting access to elite education and why it might not matter

A two-part MoneyLaw series

By way of Luke Gilman, one of my blogging affiliates at First Movers, I've learned about College Admissions: A Game of Privilege?. In this production by the National Public Radio program, Justice Talking, host Margot Adler "takes a look at the ugly side of the economics of higher education."

The considerable coding skills of Jurisdynamics Network webmaster Gil Grantmore enable MoneyLaw to podcast College Admissions: A Game of Privilege? in its entirety and to focus on two segments of special interest to the readers of this forum. Part I, presented here, discusses how elite colleges are changing the bases on which they offer financial aid and how those changes disfavor poor students. Part II will shed further light on why the resulting reduction in access to elite education might matter — or not.

Read the rest of this post . . . .Harvard behind locked gates
One segment in A Game of Privilege? consists of a discussion with Ross Wiener (vice president for program and policy at the Education Trust and previously an attorney in the Educational Opportunities Section of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division) and M. Peter McPherson (president of the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges and former president of Michigan State). According to Luke Gilman, this segment "highlights a particularly pertinent issue in law school settings." Ross Wiener explains:
One of the things that we can look at is how colleges and universities use their own financial resources either to broaden access or to serve other purposes. And what we’ve seen is a huge shift away from providing institutional financial aid to the financially neediest students and more towards giving larger financial rewards to students who could afford to go to college whether they got a financial award or not. But these public universities, in order to move up in the ratings and the rankings systems, are actually buying up students who have done better previously. And it’s a real problem because we’ve got to figure out how to reward and incentivize these public institutions to serve these students who are going to struggle academically and financially. The country needs for these students to be more successful. And right now all the signals and all the status are towards universities and colleges becoming more elite, and not serving struggling students.
Luke Gilman's assessment of this trend is extremely perceptive. I quote him in full:
There is a clear incentive to “buy” high performing students in order to increase the illusion of selectivity. This incentive in turn puts pressure on admissions offices to make choices based on numbers that it might otherwise make on less quantifiable grounds and also applies pressure to increase tuition to fund the arms race. In this context, the recent moves by wealthier universities to reach into their endowments looks less like philanthropy and more like the erection of barriers to entry.

When the rankings start to reflect not the value the institution can impart on a student by virtue of its education but rather the status the school can achieve by leveraging its endowment to pad its LSAT stats, then it’s time for a MoneyLaw revolution.
I'll mince no words. Law school rankings are evil because they distort the real meaning of legal education. Likewise, managerial strategies designed to pad a school's prestige rather than serve students are craven.

Next in this series: Why restricted access to elite education matters — or not.


Blogger Mr. B. said...

Absolutely terrific post.

Thanks to Grantmore for making the podcasts available. They are well worth a listen.

Mr. Bonzo

4/02/2008 8:12 AM  

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