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Survey: Universities Increasingly Admitting Students Based On Wealth

A new survey of admissions officers released today by Inside Higher Ed, a news site for higher education professionals, shows that sometimes your worst thoughts about how colleges make admission decisions are right.

The survey found that in a cash-strapped environment, universities are paying more attention to whether a student can pay their own way and will pay more to attend the school.

"Among all four-year institutions, the admissions strategy judged most important over the next two or three years — driven by high figures in the public sector — was the recruitment of more out-of-state students (who at public institutions pay significantly more)," the survey finds. "The runner-up was the strategy of providing more aid for low- and middle-income students."

David A. Hawkins, director of public policy and research at the National Association for College Admission Counseling, told The New York Times this signaled a "fundamental change in the admissions process."

"Where many of the older admissions professionals came in through the institution and saw it as an ethically centered counseling role, there's now a different dynamic that places a lot more emphasis on marketing," Hawkins said.

The survey also found:

-- About a quarter of the 462 admissions counselors surveyed said they had been pressured by various sources including development office and trustees to admit certain students.

-- 28 percent of officers said they admitted athletes with lower grades and test scores than others. 39 percent said they admitted minority students with lower grades and test scores than others. 10 percent said they admitted lower performing students who would pay their full tuition.

-- "Just over one fourth of admissions directors view plagiarism on application essays as a serious problem. The concern was greater at private than at public institutions."

-- "A majority of admissions directors (just over 53 percent) said that coaching by parents or college counselors is making it more difficult to learn about applicants."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.