Friday, October 16, 2009

Getting into Elite Universities in the US

Daily Princetonian, the student paper at Princeton, is doing us a favor by printing two articles, here and here.

The issue of Affirmative Action to favor the "discriminated" in the US is not new. Arguments for and against such action are well-rehearsed by now.

In the context of America's racial past, those arguments have been mainly about African-Americans who the whole world knew had a most unfortunately history in the past, putting it mildly. What is new is whether Asian-Americans are being discriminated against.

These two articles I am posting provide a useful backdrop to think about the challenges of getting into desirable elite colleges in a growing multiracial society. At the same point it poses a serious problem for the elite colleges themselves who are facing a growing discrepancy between their public image as institutions who value excellence above all and what they have to do to put together a "balanced and diverse" student body.

This has become an issue not just among private colleges who only really need to answer to their respective boards of trustees. It is affecting such public institutions as University of California at Berkeley, one of the world's premium universities.

It has long been charged that there is a de facto upper limit put on how many Asian Americans can get into Berkeley.

The current student mix is about 50% Asian Americans. IT is widely believed that unless a quota on Asian American students, they would constitute more than 50% of any year's entering class. If so, that would "unfairly" disadvantage other racial groups who could use a little "Affirmative Action'. Two such groups stand out: Native Americans and Hispanics.

The issue of Asians versus Non-Asian groups that will soon include Whites (!) will be increasingly contentious in years to come.

As I have pointed out in an earlier blog, the demand for quality education + a branded degree will vastly -- read my lips - VASTLY outstrip the supply.

Hence, be prepared for more recriminations, acrimonious polemics and, as a side consequence, more pressure on the kids to become super boys and girls.

A growth industry, not surprisingly, is private consultants for high school kids who want to own a branded degree. They are charging upwards of $40,000 a year to advise ambitious parents how to manage the lives of their kids so that by the time they apply to, say, Princeton, their CVs would look like something from Krypton. These consultants claim they can read the minds of Admissions officers at elite colleges.

Oh, once these consultants are hired, they must be kept on to manage the process of a 8th grader all the way to the 12th grade. Each year presents a challenge for the kid to build a new cv for the next year and the next.

I guess I have been in the wrong businesses, obviously!

BTW do scroll though some of the comments at the end of those 2 articles.


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