Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Affirmative action for the rich: Part 2

The Economist reviews Daniel Golden's The Price of Admission: How America's Ruling Class Buys Its Way into Elite Colleges—and Who Gets Left Outside the Gates [link via orgtheory.net]:

The American establishment is extraordinarily good at getting its children into the best colleges. In the last presidential election both candidates—George Bush and John Kerry—were “C” students who would have had little chance of getting into Yale if they had not come from Yale families. Al Gore and Bill Frist both got their sons into their alma maters (Harvard and Princeton respectively), despite their average academic performances. Universities bend over backwards to admit “legacies” (ie, the children of alumni). Harvard admits 40% of legacy applicants compared with 11% of applicants overall. Amherst admits 50%. An average of 21-24% of students in each year at Notre Dame are the offspring of alumni. When it comes to the children of particularly rich donors, the bending-over-backwards reaches astonishing levels. Harvard even has something called a “Z” list—a list of applicants who are given a place after a year's deferment to catch up—that is dominated by the children of rich alumni.

University behaviour is at its worst when it comes to grovelling to celebrities. Duke University's admissions director visited Steven Spielberg's house to interview his stepdaughter. Princeton found a place for Lauren Bush—the president's niece and a top fashion model—despite the fact that she missed the application deadline by a month. Brown University was so keen to admit Michael Ovitz's son that it gave him a place as a “special student”. (He dropped out after a year.)

Most people think of black football and basketball stars when they hear about “sports scholarships”. But there are also sports scholarships for rich white students who play preppie sports such as fencing, squash, sailing, riding, golf and, of course, lacrosse. The University of Virginia even has scholarships for polo-players, relatively few of whom come from the inner cities.

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My previous post on this book is here.