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Legacy Admissions


At highly selective colleges and universities, the policy of legacy admissions makes it easier for certain wealthy students to gain admission. Under this policy, students who are daughters or sons (or other relatives) of graduates of the institution are given preference in admissions. Because their parents are very likely to be wealthy, a legacy admissions policy in effect amounts to what critics call “affirmative action for the rich” (Kahlenberg, 2010). [13] According to recent research, being a child of an alumna or alumnus of one of these institutions increases one’s chances of admission by forty-five percentage points (Kahlenberg, 2011). [14] Thus if a nonlegacy applicant with certain qualifications would ordinarily have a 40 percent chance of being admitted, a legacy applicant with the same qualifications would have an 85 percent chance of being admitted. Critics say legacy admissions give an unfair advantage to wealthy students and use up valuable spots that should go to more qualified students from more varied socioeconomic backgrounds. As one critic puts it, “It’s fundamentally unfair because it’s a preference that advantages the already advantaged. It has nothing to do with the individual merit of the applicant” (Lewin, 2010, p. A12).[15]

Graduation Rates


For the sake of students and of their colleges and universities, it is important that as many students as possible go on to earn their diplomas. However, only 57 percent of students at four-year institutions graduate within six years. This figure varies by type of institution. At the highly selective private institutions, 80–90 percent or more of students typically graduate within six years, while at many public institutions, the graduate rate is about 50 percent. Academic and financial difficulties and other problems explain why so many students fail to graduate (Gonzalez, 2010). [16]

The 57 percent overall rate masks a racial/ethnic difference in graduation rates: While 60 percent of white students graduate within six years, only 49 percent of Latino students and 40 percent of African American students graduate. At some institutions, the graduation rates of Latino and African American students match those of whites, thanks in large part to exceptional efforts by these institutions to help students of color. As one expert on this issue explains, “What colleges do for students of color powerfully impacts the futures of these young people and that of our nation” (Gonzalez, 2010). [17] Another expert placed this issue into a larger context: “For both moral and economic reasons, colleges need to ensure that their institutions work better for all the students they serve” (Stephens, 2010). [18]

In this regard, it is important to note that the graduation rate of low-income students from four-year institutions is much lower than the graduation rate of wealthier students (Luhby, 2011). [19] In fact, students with high test scores and low-income parents are less likely to graduate than students with low test scores and high-income parents (Krugman, 2012). [20]

Low-income students drop out at higher rates because of academic and financial difficulties and family problems. Their academic and financial difficulties are intertwined. Low-income students often have to work many hours per week during the academic year to be able to pay their bills. Because their work schedules reduce the time they have for studying, their grades may suffer. This general problem has been made worse by cutbacks in federal grants to low-income students that began during the 1980s. These cutbacks forced low-income students to rely increasingly on loans, which have to be repaid. This fact leads some to work more hours during the academic year to limit the loans they must take out, and their increased work schedule again may affect their grades.

Low-income students face additional difficulties beyond the financial (Berg, 2010). [21] Their writing and comprehension skills upon entering college are often weaker than those of wealthier students. If they are first-generation college students (meaning that neither parent went to college), they often have problems adjusting to campus life and living amid students from much more advantaged backgrounds.

Campus Violence


Earlier we discussed violence in the elementary and secondary schools. Violence can also happen on college and university campuses, although shootings are very rare. However, three recent examples illustrate that students and faculty are not immune from gun violence. In April 2012, a former student lined up and then shot and killed seven people and wounded three others at Oikos University in Oakland, California. In February 2010, Amy Bishop, a biology professor at the University of Alabama in Huntsville who had recently been denied tenure, allegedly shot and killed three faculty at a department meeting and wounded three others. Almost three years earlier, a student at Virginia Tech went on a shooting rampage and killed thirty-two students and faculty before killing himself.

Other types of violence are more common on the nation’s campuses. Chapter 4 "Gender Inequality" noted that an estimated 20–30 percent of women students have been raped or sexually assaulted (including attempts), usually by a male student who was an acquaintance, friend, or intimate partner. Beyond rape and sexual assault, students are also sometimes assaulted or robbed. Federal victimization data show that about 6 percent of college students are victims of at least one act of all these types of violence annually (Baum & Klaus, 2005). [22]Because there are about 20 million students in college, this 6 percent figure translates to about 1.2 million annual violent victimizations at US colleges and universities. It is important to note that the 6 percent rate masks a significant gender difference: 8 percent of male students experience at least one act of violence annually, compared to about 4 percent of female students. Male students are thus twice as likely as female students to be victimized by violence. For just rape and sexual assault, though, female students are much more likely than male students to be victimized.

Many colleges and universities have been accused of not taking rape and sexual assault seriously in what one news report called a “struggle for justice” for campus rape victims (Lipka, 2011; Shapiro, 2010). [23] This criticism takes two forms. First, campuses ignore many reports of rape and sexual assault altogether. Second, they hand out weak or no discipline in cases when they do heed reports. One student’s account of her university’s lack of follow-up to her alleged rape illustrates this criticism. “It was as if they were going above and beyond to ensure nothing would be done in my case,” the woman later recalled. “I felt extremely disappointed to know that the institution in charge of ensuring my safety did not recognize the massive distress the sexual assault caused me. Furthermore, I was disappointed that when I sought justice through their system, I was treated with hostility and disrespect. I was clearly not believed, and was often blamed for what had happened” (Webley, 2011). [24]


KEY TAKEAWAYS


  • The cost of higher education and other problems make it difficult for low-income students and students of color to enter college and to stay in college once admitted.

  • Many college students have academic and personal problems that lead them to flounder and to seek psychological counseling.

  • Many campuses continue to lack racial and social class diversity, and affirmative action remains very controversial.

  • Physical and sexual violence is a general problem on the nation’s campuses. At least one-fifth of college women are raped or sexually assaulted.



FOR YOUR REVIEW


  1. If you were the director of admissions at a university, what steps would you take to increase the number of applications from low-income students?

  2. Do you think alcohol use is to blame for most campus violence, or are there other important factors at work? Explain your answer.

[1] The College Board. (2012). What it costs to go to college. Retrieved fromhttp://www.collegeboard.com/student/pay/add-it-up/4494.html.

[2] Stripling, J. (2010, September 15). Refining aid choices. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved fromhttp://www.insidehighered.com/news/2010/2009/2015/discounting.

[3] Pope, J. (2011, November 3). Average student loan debt: $25,250. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/2011/2003/average-student-debt-2525_n_1073335.html.

[4] Golden, S. (2010, September 15). When college is not the best time. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved from http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2010/2009/2015/leibow.

[5] Epstein, J. (2010, May 4). Stability in student mental health. Inside Higher Ed. Retrived from http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2010/2005/2004/counseling.

[6] Sieben, L. (2011, March 14). Nearly a third of college students have had mental-health counseling, study finds. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved fromhttp://chronicle.com/article/Nearly-a-Third-of-College/126726.

[7] Krugman, P. (2012, January 9). America’s unlevel field. New York Times, p. A19.

[8] Pérez-Peña, R. (2012, April 2). To enroll more minority students, colleges work around the courts. New York Times, p. A9.

[9] Pérez-Peña, R. (2012, April 2). To enroll more minority students, colleges work around the courts. New York Times, p. A9.

[10] Schmidt, P. (2010, September 19). In push for diversity, colleges pay attention to socioeconomic class. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved fromhttp://chronicle.com/article/Socioeconomic-Class-Gains/124446/?key=TjgnJ124441E124444aHZGM124443hiaT124448TZzgHPSRqZR124448jY124443A YPn124440pbl124449WFQ%124443D%124443D.

[11] Schmidt, P. (2010, September 19). In push for diversity, colleges pay attention to socioeconomic class. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved fromhttp://chronicle.com/article/Socioeconomic-Class-Gains/124446/?key=TjgnJ124441E124444aHZGM124443hiaT124448TZzgHPSRqZR124448jY124443A YPn124440pbl124449WFQ%124443D%124443D.

[12] Schmidt, P. (2010, September 19). In push for diversity, colleges pay attention to socioeconomic class. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved fromhttp://chronicle.com/article/Socioeconomic-Class-Gains/124446/?key=TjgnJ124441E124444aHZGM124443hiaT124448TZzgHPSRqZR124448jY124443A YPn124440pbl124449WFQ%124443D%124443D.

[13] Kahlenberg, R. D. (Ed.). (2010). Affirmative action for the rich: Legacy preferences in college admissions. New York, NY: Century Foundation.

[14] Kahlenberg, R. (2011, January 6). Do legacy preferences count more than race? The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from http://chronicle.com/blogs/innovations/do-legacy-preferences-count-more-than-race/28294.

[15] Lewin, T. (2010, January 9). Study finds family connections give big advantage in college admissions. New York Times, p. A12.

[16] Gonzalez, J. (2010, August 9). Reports highlight disparities in graduation rates among white and minority students. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved fromhttp://chronicle.com/article/Reports-Highlight-Disparities/123857.

[17] Gonzalez, J. (2010, August 9). Reports highlight disparities in graduation rates among white and minority students. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved fromhttp://chronicle.com/article/Reports-Highlight-Disparities/123857.

[18] Stephens, L. (2010). Reports reveal colleges with the biggest, smallest gaps in minority graduation rates in the US. Washington, DC: The Education Trust.

[19] Luhby, T. (2011, November 28). College graduation rates: Income really matters. CNN Money. Retrieved fromhttp://money.cnn.com/2011/11/21/news/economy/income_college/index.htm.

[20] Krugman, P. (2012, January 9). America’s unlevel field. New York Times, p. A19.

[21] Berg, G. A. (2010). Low-income students and the perpetuation of inequality: Higher education in America. Burlington, VT: Ashgate.

[22] Baum, K., & Klaus, P. (2005). Violent victimization of college students, 1995–2002. Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics.

[23] Lipka, S. (2011, March 20). Colleges face conflicting pressures in dealing with cases of sexual assault. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved fromhttp://chronicle.com/article/Colleges-Face-Conflicting/126818/; Shapiro, J. (2010, February 24). Campus rape victims: A struggle for justice. National Public Radio. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=124001493.



[24] Webley, K. (2011, April 18). It’s not just Yale: Are colleges doing enough to combat sexual violence? Time. Retrieved fromhttp://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2065849-2065841,2065800.html.

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