The Ivy League and “Privilege”

“As gatekeeper to the upper middle class, the elite university has as its primary social function the sorting of the population. (And it seeks rents commensurate with occupying such a choice position.) It detects existing inequalities, exacerbates them, and certifies them. And whatever else it does, it serves as a finishing school where the select learn to recognize one another, forging a class consciousness that has lately hardened into a de facto caste system. But for that very reason, it is also the place where the sentiment that every inequality is illegitimate must be performed most strenuously” (1,800 words)

How Much Does Being a Legacy Help Your College Admissions Odds?

As Harvard, Notre Dame, Georgetown and others pledge to increase diversity, admitting the children of alumni at higher rates complicates their efforts

Top colleges have pledged to become more socioeconomically diverse, but the admissions edge many give to children of alumni may make that goal harder to achieve.

.. At the University of Notre Dame, the University of Virginia and Georgetown University, the admission rate for legacies is about double the rate for the overall applicant pool, according to data from the schools. At Princeton University, legacies are admitted at four times the general rate, or roughly 30% compared with about 7% overall over the past five years, the school says.

Legacy applicants at Harvard University were five times as likely to be admitted as non-legacies, according to an analysis of admissions data from 2010 through 2015. The numbers—33.6% for legacies and 5.9% for those without parental ties—were submitted in a June court filing for a case claiming Asian students are being discriminated against in the name of greater diversity at the school.

..  Diversity initiatives have led to complaints by white students that minority students have a leg up. Meanwhile, highly qualified Asian students say they should get more slots based on academics. Both say long-standing traditions like legacy admissions soak up coveted spots.

Advocates for considering legacy status argue that favoring the children—and, in some cases, grandchildren—of graduates helps maintain an engaged and generous alumni base and lets students serve as ambassadors to new campus arrivals.

Cornell University President Martha E. Pollack has said legacy admissions help perpetuate “a Cornell family that goes on for generations.” In an interview with the student newspaper in May, she said the practice isn’t about giving preference or an advantage to legacies, but such a designation is one of many “balancing factors.”

.. “I really don’t see how our best universities can continue to justify this practice,” said William Dudley, Federal Reserve Bank of New York president, in an October speech. “Such an approach only preserves the status quo and constrains economic mobility.”

A handful of elite schools, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and California Institute of Technology, don’t consider legacy status in admissions.

.. calling for a dozen schools, including Brown University, Duke University, Swarthmore College and Emory University, to review their legacy admission policies.
.. Legacy preferences, which historians say were originally developed to keep Jewish students from prestigious colleges in the early 1900s, generally benefit applicants who are wealthy and white
.. Calling legacy admissions a “classist, racist institution,” Brookings Institution senior fellow Richard Reeves said, “There is an inescapable hypocrisy of an institution saying, ‘We are going to be open and meritocratic,’ and maintaining a hereditary privilege.”
.. Legacies made up roughly 5% of the applicant pool and 15% of this fall’s entering class at the University of Virginia.
.. “ ‘Special consideration’ refers to the longstanding practice of the dean of admissions and his staff carefully reviewing applicants whose parents or grandparents are alumni before final decisions are made
.. say much of the differential in admission rates can be explained by legacy applicants’ higher academic credentials and cultural fit. They say legacies also enroll at higher rates than other accepted students.

You Graduated Cum Laude? So Did Everyone Else

With more students boasting flashy GPAs, academic honors lose their luster

Nearly half of students who graduated from Lehigh University, Princeton University and the University of Southern California this year did so with cum laude, magna cum laude or summa cum laude honors, or their equivalents. At Harvard and Johns Hopkins, more got the designations than didn’t.

Anyone with a grade-point average of at least 3.4 is granted Latin honors at Middlebury College; the number of students graduating with honors has been rising in recent years, the school says, and was north of 50% this spring.

.. “A 4.0 does signal something significant, that that student is good,” said Stuart Rojstaczer, a former Duke University professor who has studied grade inflation for years. “A 3.7, however, doesn’t. That’s just a run-of-the-mill student at any of these schools.”

..  47% of high-school students graduated with an A average in 2016, up from 39% in 1998. Students keep earning the high marks in college.

.. Meanwhile, nearly 59% of seniors who graduated from Johns Hopkins this spring did so with what the school refers to as “general honors” by achieving a GPA of at least 3.5. A decade ago, nearly 46% did.

.. Most elite schools cap the share of the graduating class that can receive academic honors. But the caps vary widely, from 25% at Columbia University to up to 60% at Harvard.

Harvard’s number hit 91% in 2001

.. Northwestern University expanded its pool of eligible seniors to 25% from 16% in 2010, citing concern that students were losing out on graduate-school admissions because they were competing against peers at more magnanimous colleges.

.. Stanford University’s Knight-Hennessy Scholars graduate program, said application readers may glance at honors designations, but don’t dwell on them. He said the program—which received 3,601 applications for 50 spots this year—looks more for candidates who challenge themselves academically, even if that means a B grade along the way.