Lawsuits and scandals spark admissions policy changes for U.S. universities

World Today

Lawsuits and scandals spark admissions policy changes for U.S. universitiesWilliam “Rick” Singer founder of the Edge College & Career Network, departs federal court in Boston on Tuesday, March 12, 2019, after he pleaded guilty to charges in a nationwide college admissions bribery scandal. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

The U.S. college admissions process is currently undergoing some changes, in part, because of the recent college bribery scandal. But, also because of a series of lawsuits, challenging affirmative action—a policy that gives some applicants an edge based on non-academic factors such as race and gender. CGTN’s Karina Huber has more.

Rick Singer, the mastermind behind the U.S. college cheating scandal, had a favorite tool to get his clients’ children into elite colleges – falsifying athletic credentials.

Actress Lori Laughlin allegedly paid him half a million dollars to get her daughters into the University of Southern California by faking their records as athletes.

“I think colleges are looking at this process and they’re re-examining how they’re admitting students,” said Meha Gupta, Founder of College Shortcuts.

Since the scandal, Yale, USC and others have pledged to increase oversight of athletic recruiting.

“Where we saw the admissions process fail was in the checks and balances between admissions and athletics and that’s what we’re seeing addressed here,” said Bari Norman, President of Expert Admissions in New York.

Another change comes from the College Board – which administers one of the standard college entrance exams, the Scholastic Aptitude Test, or SAT. The board announced it will soon be including a so-called “adversity score” for students.

The adversity score looks at 15 factors including crime rates in the student’s neighborhood and whether English was spoken at home. Tellingly, it doesn’t include any information about race.

Norman says that’s because the College Board is concerned about new legal challenges to affirmative action.

Several lawsuits – including one against Harvard filed by a group of Asian-Americans – oppose the right of colleges to consider race in admissions.

“If they weren’t able to consider race, they could consider this adversity index and that would be a way to create a more diverse class without directly considering race as part of it,” said Norman.

Gupta says colleges are committed more than ever to creating a diverse student body. She says that’s why strong test scores are not enough to gain acceptance. Applicants also need a compelling story.

“It’s about how you package the student – in terms of how their essays are written, what their topics are about, how have they contributed or impacted the world and what their extracurriculars are and what their passions are in life. And to me that’s a lot more grittier and interesting than just I got a 1600. I deserve to be there,” she said.