The United States higher education system is broken; we should all be able to agree on that statement. We now have a college education system that is more worried about meeting with the approval of the cultural elite and college sports community that it is with the original mission of the University system – education and research. The latest blow to the integrity of the college system is the new “adversity score” for the SATs. This new “score” gives each student (which the student is not allowed to know about) a rating in 15 different areas and is sent to the colleges to which the student applies. The purpose of the “adversity score” is to balance the playing field for students whom certain groups feel need help getting into good schools.
The SATs have always been a problematic element for college admissions. Like the Bar Exam, the GREs, GMATs, and other standardized tests, the SATs have had to stay ahead of the curve with the prep courses offered by various companies in the United States. This relationship means that the test is designed to “dodge” the training elements which private companies design to “beat the test.” This cat and mouse game creates a testing system that is less related to the skills needed to succeed in college, which in turn causes the colleges to adapt and train students with fewer skills that they are going to need in life. To deal with this problem, we need to “get back to the basics” on multiple levels.
The first basic that we need to address is the concept that every child needs to go to college. The college admissions scandal should have been a wake up call for the people of the United States that there was something afoul in our education system; however, we have seen the news cycle slowly move away from the problems in the system so that they can focus on the million dollar book deals that the criminal parents in the scandal will get for Netflix movies. We need to endorse a system that encourages students to go to community colleges and trade schools for careers, not the “everyone needs to go to a major college” mentality that promotes more debt and more profit for bloated bureaucracies. Recent studies have even shown that over the course of a career community college and trade school grads are meeting or exceeding four-year graduates in the short term, and when entered into continuing education programs are keeping up with four-year students in the long term. Everyone has the right to an education; however, everyone should not be forced into a 1950s interpretation of what a “good” education is.
The second area that we need to address in this country is the admissions process. While diversity is important, so is student success. Just because a student scores high on diversity numbers does not eliminate the need that students should also score high on the academic number if they are entering into a competitive school. Colleges are supposed to train the best minds in our country so that they can be the best workers in our country, thus ensuring the countries success. When college admissions events, like the new SAT adversity score highlight “adversity” items rather than academic items, they are introducing students into the college system with a higher likelihood of failing (because of the lower academic score not the higher adversity score), which is simply a “cash cow” for the university systems. Entrance exams should test the ability of the student to succeed in the environment to which they are applying. The SAT has not done this for years, and the new adversity score shows that they are more interested in the Test/Prep cycle than they are in student success.
The third element is that colleges need to realize that graduation is not the end; it is merely a waypoint in a successful life. To often graduation speakers tell students that they have already won because they graduated. It is more accurate to tell a baby in New York that they have won just because they escaped the womb. A college degree is a key that opens the door to the world, nothing more. When schools try to make college “life,” they are teaching students that the campus environment is the “real world.” It is not. When students graduate they will be faced with a wildly fluctuating job market, mid-career professionals competing for the same jobs as they are, and the ever-present monster of the student loan system taking a moderate percentage of every dollar they have left, after the tax system takes its cut. All the while studies are showing that colleges are focusing more on “general education” courses rather than the actual skills that professionals need when they enter into the workforce. Once again, the community college system has been showing rapid growth in this area as an employer are trusting the trade school/community college system for qualified applicants more than what were once prestigious colleges.
The SAT debacle is a symptom of a problem that is endemic in the system, social engineering. Teachers and professors are not going to solve the problem of social inequality by denying qualified applicants’ access to high-quality education. When factors such as “adversity scores” are used, students who worked hard their whole lives are given the short end of the stick because they are being compared to a student who lived in a rough neighborhood and went to a poor high school. The SAT board cannot prove that if all things were equal that the student from the rough neighborhood would have the same score as the academically sound student, but they are willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. Why should the academically sound student be denied access because they did an excellent job? Some vulture like training groups are already jumping on this new system looking for exploits to help unqualified students get into prestigious colleges, while other more established groups, such as college coach Ivy Coach, are decrying the inherent inequality in the new SAT system. When companies that are to test the aptitude of incoming applicants begin to pick winners and loser based on criteria not related to the test, the test itself becomes invalid. The era of the SATs is over; it has placed itself in its own grave and handed the world a shovel to cover it. High schools should begin curving their GPAs so that colleges can look at students in relation to their classmates to select who are the most successful students in their class. Only then will the system really be fair. The students in rough neighborhoods will be compared to other students in the same neighborhoods; the students at good schools will be compared to other students in good schools. Students will be judged on their ability, not on their demographics, which will help ensure that the best students have the opportunity to compete for the best schools.
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