Raj Chetty, Director, Opportunity Insights:
Great to be here, Geoff.
So, what we're finding in this study looking at detailed admissions data for many Ivy League and other highly selective colleges, is that there are three key factors that lead to higher admissions rates for kids from the very highest-income families in America, families making more than about $600,000 a year.
The first is legacy admissions. If your parents went to a given college, you have a five- or six-fold higher chance of getting into that college, relative to somebody else with the exact same application credentials.
Second, recruited athletes are of — have a significant advantage in getting into these colleges. And they tend to come primarily from very high-income families. And, third, we find that non academic credentials — think of things like extracurriculars or other activities, leadership traits outside the classroom — these credentials tend to be much stronger among kids from very high-income families and, in particular, much stronger among kids who went to elite private high schools, which, of course, tend to be attended primarily by kids from very high-income families.
Together, those three things explain why kids from the highest-income families are about two times as likely to get in as kids from middle-class families.
A much-discussed new study found that students from families in the top 1% of income have a significant advantage in college admissions. But it also featured another, less discussed yet possibly even more important, finding.
Let’s start with what has been at the top of the news. A new study from two Harvard professors and one Brown professor found, according to the New York Times, that “for applicants with the same SAT or ACT score, children from families in the top 1 percent were 34 percent more likely to be admitted [to an Ivy or Ivy-adjacent school] than the average applicant, and those from the top 0.1 percent were more than twice as likely to get in.”
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A striking graph demonstrates the advantage enjoyed by students from families in the top 1%, and especially the top 0.1%, of earners.
But this may not be the most important finding of the study. After all, it is already widely known that the Ivy League is filled with those from households in the top 1% of income.
Rather, as journalist Zaid Jilani pointed out, the study also found that "greater reliance on SAT and less reliance on non-academic ratings = more middle-income kids admitted."
The study itself reads: If "colleges eliminate the three factors that drive the admissions advantage for students from high-income families — legacy preferences, the advantage given to those with higher non-academic ratings, and the differential recruitment of athletes from high-income families — and then refill the newly opened slots with students who have the same distribution of SAT scores as the current class. Under such an admissions policy, the share of students attending Ivy-Plus colleges from the bottom 95% of the parental income distribution would rise by 8.7 percentage points."
This is quite interesting. As schools are increasingly moving away from objective measures of merit such as the SAT in favor of more subjective criteria, some are celebrating this as a great equalizer. But that may not exactly be true. This study suggests it is overly subjective criteria — criteria that are not based on academic merit — that are creating unfair advantages for children from high-income families in the first place. And it is actually an added emphasis on the much-maligned SAT that can make the admissions process fairer.
The reason is that taking away objective measures such as the SAT not only allows, but forces, admissions officers to shape the class demographics in whatever way they believe is best, giving preference to whatever groups they prefer. Absent significant data to base their decisions on, this is inevitable. But the issue is that giving preference to a given group inherently entails disadvantaging those in another group, which we intuitively understand is unfair.
Additionally, those who defend such a practice in the present because they believe the institutions are choosing the “right” people to advantage open up a Pandora's box they usually do not fully understand. Many defenders of affirmative action, for example, will call for an end to legacy admissions. And many of the defenders of legacy admissions will call for an end to affirmative action. But this is quite ironic because the two policies are justified on the same grounds of believing certain factors are simply more important than merit in the consideration of applicants such that some groups as a whole ought to be advantaged and others disadvantaged.
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But by taking away such subjective measures, and instead instituting a more merit-based system, those groups who were formerly disadvantaged will now be given greater opportunity. Within the context of this new study, it is everyone who is not in the top 1%. In other contexts, it could be other groups.
So before liberals remove the SAT as a requirement from every last university in America in the name of “equity,” they should take a moment to actually think about what they are doing.
Jack Elbaum is a summer 2023 Washington Examiner fellow.
The debate over whether the college admissions process discriminates against Asian Americans has persisted for decades, as Higher Ed Dive reported. One of the two lawsuits that led to the Supreme Court’s recent ruling against race-conscious admissions alleged that Harvard University sets a higher bar for Asian American applicants.
The National Bureau of Economic Research report found that the admissions gap between white and Asian American admission rates is actually separate and “conceptually distinct” from affirmative action. Indeed, common institutional policies, like legacy admissions favoring alumni’s family members, disproportionately hurt Asian American students, the paper found.
Researchers analyzed the test scores, grade point averages and extracurricular activities of almost 686,000 college applications from roughly 293,000 Asian American and white students. They further disaggregated Asian American student data by South Asia, East Asia and Southeast Asia subgroups. The data spans five admission cycles, beginning with 2015-16.
Legacy is one of the key issues. Both white and Asian American legacy applicants were more than twice as likely to be accepted than applicants without legacy status. But East Asian and Southeast Asian students were roughly three times less likely to have legacy status than white students. The likelihood for South Asian students plummeted almost six times lower than white students.
To make matters worse, Asian American applicants can not simply outperform their competition, the paper said. Even though they had higher average standardized test scores than white students, they faced worse odds of being admitted. Among students in the 99th percentile of test takers, South Asian students were 43% less likely to be accepted to a selective college than white students.
For applicants from the UK who are eligible for Home tuition fees, contextual information is used to gain a more complete picture of the educational and individual context of an applicant. This allows our admissions selectors to assess achievement and potential whilst recognising the challenges an applicant may have faced in their educational or individual circumstances.
You do not need to do anything in addition to the standard UCAS application, your application will automatically have the contextual information added when we receive it.
What contextual information is used?
The following nine pieces of contextual information will be flagged for the attention of the admissions selector:
1. Care experienced (This means you will have spent time living with foster carers under local authority care, in residential care (e.g. a children’s home), looked after at home under a supervision order, or in kinship care with relatives or friends, either officially (e.g. a special guardianship order) or informally without local authority support). This information is self-declared on the UCAS form and Tested at a later stage.
2. The performance of the school/college where the applicant took their GCSEs (or equivalent qualification). Specifically, where the school’s or college’s performance is below the national average.
3. The performance of the school/college where the applicant took their A-levels (or equivalent qualification). Specifically, where the school’s or college’s performance is below the national average.
4. The home postcode of the applicant is compared against the POLAR 4 dataset. The Office for Students (OfS) assess how likely young people from different postcodes are to progress to Higher Education. We will flag applicants with postcodes in quintiles 1 and 2 (the 40 per cent least likely to progress to Higher Education). The Office for Students has a POLAR 4 postcode checker on their website.
5. The home postcode of the applicant is compared against the IMD (Indices of Multiple Deprivation) dataset. We will flag applicants with postcodes in quintiles 1 and 2 (the 40 per cent most deprived areas). The UK Government has this postcode checker for English postcodes on their website. For the IMD classification of Northern Irish postcodes see this postcode checker; for the IMD classification of Scottish postcodes see this postcode checker; and for the IMD classification of Welsh postcodes see this postcode checker.
6. The home postcode of the applicant is compared to CACI’s Acorn dataset. CACI classifies postcodes according to a range of socio-demographic indicators. We will flag applicants with postcodes in Acorn types 40 and above.
7. Participation in an intensive LSE Widening Participation (WP) programme. We will flag applicants who have completed LSE CHOICE, LSE Pathways to Law, LSE Pathways to Banking and Finance, Promoting Potential or the LSE Year 11 Summer School/LSE COMPASS.
8. Participation in any Sutton Trust Pathways programme at any UK university. This includes Pathways to Engineering, Pathways to Medicine, Pathways to Law (in-person or online), Pathways to Banking and Finance (in-person or online), and Pathways to Consulting online.
9. Where a student is known to have been eligible for Free School Meals (FSM) in the previous six years.
10. Other individual circumstances that may have disrupted or adversely affected an applicant’s education and achievement, as outlined in an Extenuating Circumstances Form.
How is contextual information used?
Applicants who have been flagged for the attention of the admissions selector will receive additional consideration.The selector may use this information in the following ways:
- to make an applicant a standard offer where the applicant’s academic record (eg, GCSEs/AS levels or equivalent) or personal statement may be marginally less competitive than the cohort overall
- to make an applicant a standard offer where the applicant is predicted marginally below the usual entry requirements
- when making confirmation decisions for offer holders that have marginally failed to meet the entry criteria (usually this means one grade below the standard entry requirements).
Eligible students (students flagged with a home postcode that is classified as POLAR4 Quintile 1 or IMD Quintile 1, as a care leaver, or a participant in a specified LSE WP programme or a Sutton Trust Pathways programme), may be considered for a contextual offer. The contextual offer will be one grade lower than the standard offer for the programme (with the exception of LLB Laws, BA/BSc Anthropology, BA Geography, BSc Geography with Economics, BSc Environment and Development, BSc Environmental Policy with Economics, and BSc International Social and Public Policy, where the contextual offer will be 2 grades lower than the standard offer). Any mathematics requirement must still be met.
All academic departments are participating in the contextual offer scheme.
The contextual offer grades are listed alongside the standard offer A-level and IB entry requirements on the relevant programme pages.
Contextual information is used as part of the holistic admissions assessment and applicants are assessed alongside all other similar applicants, therefore having a contextual flag does not certain that an offer will be made.
Admission to an Ivy League college or a similarly elite institution like MIT is often seen as a golden ticket offering entry into academic institutions that have collectively produced more than 4 in 10 U.S. presidents and 1 in 8 CEOs of Fortune 500 companies.
But that ticket is far more likely to be handed out to students who are already privileged irrespective of their academic credentials— the children of the top 1% of U.S. income earners, a new analysis finds.
"Ivy plus" colleges — the eight Ivy League colleges along with MIT, Stanford, Duke and University of Chicago — admit children from families in the top 1% at more than twice the rate of students in any other income group with similar SAT or ACT scores, according to the new analysis from the Opportunity Insights, a group of economists at Harvard University who study inequality. Families in the top 1% of earners typically have annual income of around $611,000, the researchers said.
"It's a very broadly held position that your opportunities in life shouldn't depend on the circumstances of your birth, and in some sense that's the core of the American dream," noted John Friedman, an economics professor at Brown University and a co-author of the paper. "When you have these practices in society that serve to add more advantage to those students who already come from advantaged backgrounds, that limits the ability of other students to achieve those successes in life and it limits the American dream."
A less economically diverse group of students at Ivy-plus universities also has implications for leadership roles in business, politics and other industries, he noted.
"When you have a less diverse group of students, it will be a less diverse group that get this boost toward these leadership positions later in their careers," Friedman added.
It may come as no surprise that the likes of Harvard, Yale and Princeton favor the children of the ultra-wealthy, but the study also shows that academically high-performing students from middle-income families are among the least likely to gain admission to one these elite colleges.
About 40% of students from the richest families who scored at the 99th percentile on the SAT or ACT class attend an Ivy-plus college, compared with 20% of students with the same scores who come from the poorest U.S. families. Among middle-class students who have the same top SAT or ACT scores, only about 10% attend an Ivy-plus college, the analysis found.
"If you look at where students have attendance rates that are higher versus lower, comparing students with the same score on academic credentials, it's a little bit of a U — it's lowest for students who are upper middle income, earning maybe $80,000 to $150,000 a year," Friedman said. "Those students have the lowest rates."
The study comes as the Supreme Court recentlyin college admission decisions, effectively ending the use of race as a basis for consideration in whether to accept an applicant. The end of affirmative action has drawn scrutiny to other forms of preference at top colleges, such as children whose parents are alumni, called , or who are wealthy.
"Highly selective private colleges serve as gateways to the upper echelons of society in the United States," wrote Friedman and his co-authors Raj Chetty and David Deming of Harvard. "Because these colleges currently admit students from high-income families at substantially higher rates than students from lower-income families with comparable academic credentials, they perpetuate privilege across generations."
These colleges could make their student bodies more socioeconomically diverse by changing their admissions policies, the researchers noted. These steps would include ending legacy admissions and evaluating non-academic qualities that account for the impact of privilege.
The findings also suggest that middle-income students may be at a disadvantage compared with either their wealthy or low-income peers. In effect, such students neither have enough wealth to supply them a foot in the door, nor are they among the demographic groups that colleges have courted in latest decades to foster diversity.
Students in the middle of the income distribution are "having kind of the least opportunities to rise to these leadership positions, [when] comparing students with similar academic credentials," he added.
The impact of getting an elite education can be significant in a student's trajectory after college, the researchers noted. The group analyzed applicants who were put on the waitlist at Ivy-plus institutions, and then compared the outcomes of students who were either admitted off the waitlist or were ultimately rejected.
"Compared to attending highly selective flagship public colleges, students who attend Ivy-plus colleges are 60% more likely to earn in the top 1%, twice as likely to attend a graduate school ranked in the top 10, and three times more likely to work at prestigious employers in medicine, research, law, finance and other fields," they noted.
Of course, plenty of students who attend colleges that aren't among the Ivy-plus achieve success in their careers. And the Ivy-plus colleges enroll less than 1% of college students. Yet because the oversize impact of these schools in creating the next generation of leaders and the rich, they face more scrutiny for their acceptance policies than other universities.
"We conclude that even though they educate a small share of students overall and therefore cannot change rates of social mobility by themselves, Ivy-plus colleges could meaningfully diversify the socioeconomic origins of society's leaders by changing their admissions practices," the authors noted.
The general requirements for admission to graduate study at the university are listed below.
The rules, regulations, and policies delineated by the University constitute only the minimum requirements for admission, retention, and graduation. Each department may have additional requirements mandated by the unique nature of its programs. It is the responsibility of the graduate student to be aware of the minimum requirements of the University and, in addition, to fulfill the special requirements of the particular program in which he or she is enrolled.
Applicants can apply using the online application.
A non-waivable and non-refundable application fee must be received before the application is processed. Each applicant must file the following documents:
The University of Massachusetts Lowell Graduate Admissions Office has a "rolling admissions" policy. However, some programs have early, fixed application deadlines. Consequently, the applicant is strongly urged to contact the department of interest to determine the last date on which applications may be received. In general, early applications will ensure that all materials are processed on time and that a student who wishes to apply for a teaching assistantship will be given due consideration. Many programs will fill available openings several months before the beginning of the semester. A student who has been accepted into a graduate program must attend within a year of acceptance or may, at the discretion of the department, be required to submit a new application. Application files for individuals who do not matriculate will be retained for only two years from the date of application.
A student may be admitted to graduate study at the University of Massachusetts Lowell under one of the two classifications listed below.
Graduate certificate programs are designed for students holding a baccalaureate degree in a field related to the certificate program. A student who wishes to apply to a certificate program must complete the Graduate Certificate Application, submit the appropriate application fee, and submit an official transcript indicating the conferral of a bachelor's degree. The graduate record test (GRE) and letters of recommendation are not required.
A student in a certificate program who wishes to enroll in a master's or doctoral program is ineligible to receive credit towards a degree until he or she files a formal application and is then admitted as a matriculated student.
The maximum number of graduate credits a student may complete while enrolled in a graduate certificate is 12 credits.
An individual without advanced degree objectives may take courses in certain programs with non-degree status. A student who wishes to take courses as a non-degree student must submit an official transcript indicating the conferral of a bachelor's degree. A student in non-degree status is ineligible to receive credit towards a degree until he or she files a formal application and is then admitted as a matriculated student.
The maximum number of graduate credits a student may complete with non-degree status is 12 credits.
NOTE: International students are not eligible for non-degree status.