Lower Grades But More Money May Mean College Acceptance

The scandal of the connection between money and college acceptance continued since we last posted about it here. A new article published in The New York Times found that the financial downturn in the nation is causing colleges to be more selective financially when recruiting and admitting students. Surveys have shown that students who are able to pay out-of-pocket for their education, rather than rely on financial aid, have a better chance of being accepted at many colleges across the country, even if their grades aren’t up to par.

"More than half of the admissions officers at public research universities, and more than a third at four-year colleges said that they had been working harder in the past year to recruit students who need no financial aid and can pay full price, according to the survey of 462 admissions directors and enrollment managers conducted in August and early September," the article stated.

The focus for recruiting students is shifting from academic accomplishments to a student’s ability to pay. Even though some students may not be the brightest candidates, if they are able to pay without financial aid, they now have a very good chance of being accepted. The same survey contained statements from admissions directors claiming that "the full-pay students they were admitting, on average, had lower grades and test scores than other admitted applicants," according to Lewin. This evidence that the tough financial times have caused colleges to lower their academic expectations for students who are able to pay up front.

Lewin writes that in addition to the ability to pay, and in response to pressure from third parties, colleges are lessening the academic qualifications for certain students, including those of particular ethnic groups, veterans, and even the children of alumni in an attempt to raise their profiles. Also, international and out-of-state students are getting an edge because they have to pay higher tuition. David A. Hawkins, director of public policy and research at the National Association for College Admission Counseling, expressed his concerns about this influence from external parties and how it can affect the legitimacy of the admitting process. He was quoted in Lewin’s article saying, "We certainly have standards, but there needs to be awareness that when the economy starts to crumble, the standards may start to go out the window."

This seemingly new trend is starting stir up some controversy from students, in particular those who strove to excel academically in order to gain acceptance into a college or university. These students may fear that accepting anyone who can pay up front is going to lower the academic standing and reputation of the school, which can affect the students’ job placement in the future. According to the article, many students also feel like this shows that their school would rather make money than work to ensure that the school has a respectable student body.

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