Get Schooled

Your source to discuss and learn about education in Georgia and the nation and share opinions and news with Maureen Downey

If colleges admitted solely on grades and SAT scores, would there be fewer winning teams and males?


In theory, everyone wants colleges to admit students based solely on academic excellence. In reality, few of us would want to attend colleges that did so.

If colleges relied only on test scores, AP enrollment, class ranking and grade point averages, there would be fewer males along with fewer African-American students. Campuses would be more monochromatic and female.

The U.S. Supreme Court announced last week it will revisit the use of racial preferences, leading to declarations that college acceptances should be blind to any factors outside student performance. (We discussed the news here.)

However, colleges do weigh other factors beyond academics to ensure their campuses have a rich mix of personalities, talents and interests. If colleges did not consider what else students bring to the table besides grades and SAT scores, there may not be baritones for the chorus, baton twirlers for the marching band or running backs for the football team.

It's long been known and accepted that colleges give top athletes preferential treatment in admissions. The ability to run the mile, dunk a basketball or land a back flip can outweigh a mediocre GPA at many colleges. No one seems to object or a to the Supreme Court.

As the AJC reported in a special investigation last year, the 2014 freshman class at Georgia Tech had an average SAT score of 1445. However, for incoming football players, the average SAT was 420 points below the class as a whole. Gaps were also found among athletes at the University of Georgia, Georgia State and Georgia Southern. The AJC reported that in some years, as many as 100 percent of football players have SAT scores in the bottom quarter of their freshman class at Tech. At the University of Georgia, the AJC found about eight of 10 football players were in the bottom quarter.

If young women take nine AP courses, earn all A's and graduate with honors, don't they deserve to beat out less-qualified males, even if campuses experience gender imbalance?

Here's the problem. When campuses become overwhelmingly female, neither young women nor young men want to go there.

In an infamous apology essay to all the qualified young women turned down in favor of less qualified males, the admissions dean at Kenyon College explained, "Beyond the availability of dance partners for the winter formal, gender balance matters in ways both large and small on a residential college campus. Once you become decidedly female in enrollment, fewer males and, as it turns out, fewer females find your campus attractive."

While the debate has focused on raceconscious university admissions, it could eventually expand to gender preferences, since trend lines show women continuing to outpace men in college attendance. In 1994, 63 percent of female high school graduates and 61 percent of male graduates were enrolled in college in the fall following graduation.

By 2012, the percentage of young women enrolled in college right after high school rose to 71 percent. The rate for males did not change.

At the University of Texas --- the subject of the Supreme Court review --- 75 percent of students win admission by virtue of being in the top 10 percent of their high school graduating class, a policy designed to enroll more minorities and small-town Texans. Those automatic admits are disproportionately women.

Of interest to the high court is how UT Austin selects the remaining 25 percent of its students. A vetting process considers an applicant's culture; language; family; educational, geographic and socioeconomic background; work, volunteer or internship experiences; and artistic or other talents, as well as race and ethnicity.

It's the inclusion of race on the list that riles people and provokes legal challenges. I wonder if the outcry will be as loud if the list of preferences someday includes gender.


Reader Comments ...


About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.