NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 5, 2006

The American establishment is extraordinarily good at getting its children into the best colleges despite, in many cases, their average academic performances, says the Economist. 

For example:

  • Harvard admits 40 percent of legacy applicants compared with 11 percent of applicants overall. 
  • Amherst admits 50 percent.
  • An average of 21-24 percent of students each year at Notre Dame are the offspring of alumni.

And the number of children of academic faculty admitted is as high or higher:

  • Boston University accepted 91 percent of "faculty brats" in 2003, at a cost of about $9 million.
  • Notre Dame accepts about 70 percent of the children of university employees, compared with 19 percent of "unhooked" applicants, despite markedly lower average SAT scores.

These statistics are important because the United States is witnessing a potentially explosive combination of trends, says the Economist.  Social inequality is rising at a time when the escalators of social mobility are slowing, especially in higher education. Between 1980 and 1992, for example:

  • The proportion of disadvantaged children in four-year colleges fell slightly (from 29 percent to 28 percent)
  • The proportion of well-to-do children rose substantially (from 55 percent to 66 percent).

And while some improvements are being made, shaming the U.S.'s money-addicted and legacy-loving universities into returning to what should have been their guiding principle all along: admitting people to university on the basis of their intellectual ability, will still take some time.

Source: Editorial, "Poison Ivy," Economist, September 23, 2006.


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