Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Late Post Card From San Diego

I just finished my first day back at work on the East Coast after five wonderful days with 7500 of my closest friends in San Diego.  Here are some updates and observations from the NACAC Conference:

          ---The big issue in San Diego was last Monday’s announcement of the creation of the Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success consisting of 83 elite private and public colleges and universities.  The Coalition will introduce a new application platform next year as an alternative to the Common Application, and there are a lot of questions and concerns about how it will impact college admissions.  When I landed in San Diego last Tuesday and turned on my phone, the first e-mail I saw was from a loyal reader of this blog.  He forwarded me part of an e-mail discussion on the NACAC Exchange, and commented that “someone (you?) needs to ask some questions.”  I plan to comment on the Coalition and the issues it raises, but need time to process and to catch up on all the work that piled up at school while I was away.

2      ---Another friend of this blog, Bill Dingledine, received the Gayle Wilson Award for extraordinary service to the profession during the conference opening session.  Bill was the first person to post a comment when ECA started three years ago.

        ---On Saturday the NACAC Assembly amended the Statement of Principles of Good Practice to prohibit colleges from asking applicants or secondary schools to list or rank order their college or university preferences.  I have written about this issue, both with regard to the Common App adding a question and the Federal Government proposing ending the listing of other colleges on the FAFSA.  Not everyone on the college side is happy with the change, and in fact I saw a college admissions dean walking around the exhibit hall with a home-made sandwich board urging delegates to vote against the proposal.  I understand that having rank order information is helpful to colleges, but its misuse, even if only by a few schools, is wrong.  I applaud Todd Rinehart and the Admission Practices committee for their willingness to take on this issue.  Todd has been a great AP Chair, and I hope there might be more NACAC leadership in his future.  His AP shoes won’t be easy to fill, but the new Chair, Lou Hirsh, is a superb choice as Todd’s successor.

        ----The current issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education contains an interesting article by Eric Hoover and Beckie Supiano examining the concept of fairness in college admissions.  It’s a thoughtful and well-written treatment of a challenging topic (I am quoted in the article so may not be totally objective).  I plan to write a follow-up post on the subject, and may even reprint a 1988 essay I wrote for the Chronicle arguing that random selection is the only fair way for elite colleges to admit students.  It was the first article I ever wrote about college admissions, and it was also an idea whose had not (and has not) come.

        ---Finally, the previous post was featured by Inside Higher Ed in its “Around the Web” section last Tuesday, the 7th time that has happened.

Last week was enjoyable, even if I’ll pay for it the rest of the month.  Thanks to everyone who went out of your way to mention that you read and/or appreciate ECA.   The interest and support means a lot.


  1. Thanks for the summary of last week's conference, Jim. Further, thanks for the recognition and kind words regarding the work of the Admission Practices committee. And finally, I couldn't agree more that the AP committee is in great hands with Lou Hirsh taking over as the next AP chair!

  2. Enjoyed this, Jim, and it was great seeing you last week!

  3. hanks for this good post, Jim. I, too, appreciate Todd's work with the AP Committee. The are excellent stewards of the SPGP and I admire their work. As the wearer of the sandwich board you described, I do want to note that I asked only that delegates "ask tough questions." I did not ask delegates to oppose the changes. I do think asking tough questions, clarifying understanding and considering the implications of change is very healthy and sometime we don't have enough of it. It's my understanding that in this case difficult questions were asked and responded to very professionally. I think Todd and the AP committee did an excellent job of asking and answering the questions that I had and should be commended. In particular, Todd was patience and professional with me as we talked through some of the stickier aspects of the changes. As always, I am grateful to you for your continued emphasis on this important aspect of our work. W. Kent Barnds, Augustana College (Ill.)

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