Thursday, February 27, 2020

Glass Half-Full

Students For Fair Admissions claims that 45% of African-Americans and Hispanics are at elite institutions because of racial preferences. This means that 55% are there on the basis of merit.  If that sounds obvious. remember than one of the difficulties minority students face is self-doubt whether they are as capable as the other students.  It's one of the reasons that over-acceptance and over-promotion is a gift that comes at a cost.

Princeton and Dartmouth, for example, do not take African-American students from a random selection of applicants.  They take them from the first-tier, then the second.  There are plenty there.  They don't have to go to third-tier candidates. Because the prestige of a degree from an Ivy-League or other elite school far exceeds the added accomplishment to obtain it, the school is thus bestowing as a gift a significant head start to its students.  Stanford grads perform better on average in the classroom and do better on their GRE's than Davidson or UVA, but not that much better. The textbooks are the same.

Glenn Reynolds suggests that abolishing the Ivy League would do a great deal toward improving equality and egalitarian spirit.


Texan99 said...

I try to remember that during many periods in history, getting into an institution of higher learning had far less to do with merit than with social status, religion, sex, etc. We're in a bad period when merit is mattering less than we remember from our youth, but it's not unprecedented. Some kind of merit-based system always seems to spring up to compensate. It's hard to be patient, though.

RichardJohnson said...

PrepScholar: Harvard SAT Scores and GPA provides you with a place to put in a SAT score which will then inform what percentage of those with that SAT score got admitted.According to the Admissions Calculator, 4.43% of those with a 1500 SAT score get admitted.

Which informs me that admissions committees have great leeway to curate their classes any way they so choose. They could probably get as good results by lottery or a dartboard, as nearly all those who apply could pass courses there.

Julian Castro former San Antonio Mayor and HUD Secretary in the Obama Administration, admitted that he got admitted to Stanford with 1210 SAT scores. He went to Harvard for Law School. His point was that he showed that he was quite capable of doing the work at both Harvard and Stanford.

Christopher B said...

The two big problems many people have are graduates coming out of these selective institutions insisting they got in on their own merit so their credentialing indicates superior intellectual ability and that it's becoming more and more obvious, such as with the recent admissions scandal, that the selection process is rigged to favor the already credentialed and connected with the specific goal of curating the incoming classes.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

@ Christopher B - I think this is natural and automatic. It is an unsustainable blow to the ego to think otherwise, and some do leave or flunk out as you go along, reinforcing your sense of excellence for having survived there. By graduation, you are fully convinced you have earned it and deserve it, whatever you thought during freshman orientation.

It is the ironic twist to Obama's "you didn't build that," isn't it?

Texan99 said...

I have a hard time believing someone would do well at either Stanford or Harvard with 1210 SAT scores.

Texan99 said...

The average SAT score at Harvard is 1510.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

For myself, I would notice in conversation and in class that the person was not driving the discussion or the new ideas. But a lot of college is just punching the card. All you need to do is pass, not impress.

I think in math or physics you might just not be able to keep up. But there are plenty of majors to switch to. As for minority students, they tend to be closer on the verbal scores than the math SAT's anyway.

RichardJohnson said...

I have a hard time believing someone would do well at either Stanford or Harvard with 1210 SAT scores

From what I have read, it is much harder to get admitted to an elite school than to stay in one. It's not like back in the day when half of freshmen STEM students at State U flunked out. Harvard doesn't admit 5% of applicants, only to flunk them out. What is the average grade at Harvard? B+ to A-, I suspect.

Avoid STEM classes at all costs.

The book Mismatch points out that Affirmative Action admits to elite colleges have similar % of students wanting to major in STEM as other students, but the reality of competition causes most of the AA admits to drop their STEM aspirations.

Doing that, and I have no problem with seeing someone with 1210 SAT scores graduating with at least a B average. Granted, the student may have to look for guts and avoid the more challenging teachers, but that isn't hard to do.

RichardJohnson said...


The average SAT score at Harvard is 1510.

The SAT/Admissions link in my previous comment informs us that only 12.84% of those who score 1600 on the SAT gain admission to Harvard.

Which to me is insane.

james said...

Is it insane? If 1600 is O(1%) level, and 2 million took the exam, that's of the order of 20,000 students who might apply to Harvard with 1600 (maybe only 5000, but the point remains). They say 43,000 students applied (of all SATs) and 2000 were accepted.

sykes.1 said...

Actually, rather than abolish the Ivies, they should be radically increased in size to Big Ten scale. Each Ivy should have at least 40,000 to 50,000 students and 4,000 to 5,000 faculty. Ohio State graduates 9,000 students per year. That seems like a reasonable goal for the Ivies. Eight time 9,000 gives us 72,000 Ivy grads per year. That level of production should solve the Ivy credentialism problem.

By the way, several Big Ten schools, ACC schools, Pac 12 schools and U. Texas are every bit as good as the Ivies as both teaching institutes and research institutes.

David Foster said...

"Actually, rather than abolish the Ivies, they should be radically increased in size to Big Ten scale. Each Ivy should have at least 40,000 to 50,000 students and 4,000 to 5,000 faculty."

That is like saying that the diamond cartel should increase its production so that more people can afford nice diamonds. Undercuts the *whole point* of the product, which is exclusivity.

If the Ivies really thought their education was superior and beneficial, and really cared about their fellow citizens, then they would work to see how far up they could scale it--not to Big Ten levels, maybe, but a lot larger scale than at present. (probably via additional campuses rather than large monstrosities) But that's not what they are selling. These institutions are in the business of erecting and maintaining class barriers and setting themselves up as guardians of the gate.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

About 0.5% get 1600 on the SAT, and it was even less before the recentering around 1990, which was worth about 50 points. In my era, 10-30 people a year got 1600, but now it's around 400-800 every year.

sykes and David Foster's comments are of course welcome to a William and Mary graduate. (I was under some pressure to stay in New England, especially New Hampshire, when I was a senior in 1971.) However, since W&M is doing essentially the same thing these days, I can't throw stones.