The policy director of an education think tank writes in Washington Monthly, itself a purveyor of college rankings, that the future of college admissions will come in the form of a single, comprehensive website that will match prospective students and colleges:
This is the future of college admissions. The market for matching colleges and students is about to undergo a wholesale transformation to electronic form. When the time comes for Jameel to apply to colleges, ConnectEDU will take all of the information it has gathered and use sophisticated algorithms to find the best colleges likely to accept him—to find a match for Jameel in the same way that Amazon uses millions of sales records to advise customers about what books they might like to buy and Match.com helps the lovelorn find a compatible date. At the same time, on the other side of the looking glass, college admissions officers will be peering into ConnectEDU’s trove of data to search for the right mix of students.
This won’t just help the brightest, most driven kids. Bad matching is a problem throughout higher education, from top to bottom. Among all students who enroll in college, most will either transfer or drop out. For African American students and those whose parents never went to college, the transfer/dropout rate is closer to two-thirds. Most students don’t live in the resource-rich, intensely college-focused environment that upper-middle-class students take for granted. So they often default to whatever college is cheapest and closest to home. Tools like ConnectEDU will give them a way to find something better.
We can think of getting into college like this: students need to be slotted into the appropriate school. At this point, students can do certain things to improve their fit and colleges use certain information (though it often comes in a form of a narrative about students that admissions officers construct – I highly recommend Creating a Class). Our current system is highly dependent on students doing the initial legwork in searching out colleges that might fit them but as this article suggests, there are a number of students, particularly poorer students, who don’t do well in this system.
If this website idea catches on, wouldn’t it create more competition within the college market for students? If so, would middle- and upper-class students start complaining?
Also, while the article suggests a website like this is the answer to helping kids who can’t currently play the college game, doesn’t it rest on the idea that (1) people have equal access to this website and (2) that users have the ability or “cultural capital” to sort through the information the website presents? Neither of these might necessarily be true.