The Black Box of College Admissions

A recent federal case indicting dozens of wealthy parents for college admissions fraud has sparked a national conversation about the opportunity gap between wealthy and low-income applicants to U.S. colleges and universities. But the problem goes much deeper than wealth disparity. The college admissions process is a largely unregulated black box, and schools provide little transparency about how they decide who receives an acceptance letter. Past federal litigation and legislation have clarified some of the impermissible reasons for colleges to deny admission to students: sex, race, age, and disability, for example. But now, some lawmakers want to specify impermissible reasons for colleges to grant admission to students. Just weeks after the admissions fraud case was alleged, members of the California State Assembly introduced several proposals to regulate college admissions within the state. The legislation would require any “admission by exception”—a student…

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