Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Opportunity Costs of College

Today I’ve been reading about college admissions. More specifically admission boosts received by different “hooks” as they are called by potential college admits and counselors. Although there have been a few studies done about the benefits that each hook invests upon the applicants, the most definitive one I found was “The Opportunity Cost of Admission Preferences at Elite Universities” done by Princeton Professors Thomas J. Espenshade and Chang Y. Chung. They examined the profile of the applicant pool and the admitted students at five elite universities. Put simply, they found that affirmative action benefitted African-American and Hispanic applicants immensely at the cost of only Asian applicants. White students were unaffected by the policies.

If an applicant’s race were to affect their SAT score the boost would be the following:

African-Americans: +230

Hispanics: +185

Asians: –50

Whites: 0

They found that if affirmative action were to be eliminated the rate of admission of Hispanics would fall from 26.8 to 12.9 percent and that of African-Americans would fall from 33.7 to 12.2 percent. The admission rate of Asians would increase from 17.6 to 23.4 percent. The admission rate for Whites did not change. What this means is that Affirmative action does not affect White applicants, helps African-American and Hispanic applicants tremendously, and hurts Asian applicants.

Next the study looked at the effect of legacy admission. The study found that legacy admission had very little effect on the racial composition of the admitted class. The proportion of White students went from 49.4 to 51.5 percent. “Minority student effects go in the opposite direction, but they are not large. The African-American share among admitted students declines modestly from 9.2 to 9.0 percent, the Hispanic share falls from 8.3 to 7.9 percent, and Asians now account for 23.7 percent of all admitted students instead of 25.1 percent.” What this tells us is that legacy admission will probably change the composition of who gets in but will hardly change the racial composition of the class.

So if you ever get into a debate on affirmative action or legacy admission share these numbers! Otherwise, of course, you could just argue with truthiness.


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