Making Sense of the College Admissions Scandal

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All across the country, high school seniors are beginning to hear from college admissions offices. Did they get into their first choice? What type of financial aid did they receive? How many schools admitted them?

These are the questions students, parents and high school college counselors will explore in the coming weeks. But this year, it’s different.

The recent college admissions scandal is casting a long shadow over what is a celebratory time. Clearly, some parents have no moral compass when it comes to gaming the college admission system. Those colleges and universities that broke the public trust have earned the negative PR that comes from allowing a select group of parents to improperly influence the admissions process.

The scandal has focused the nation’s attention on our culture’s obsession with the college admissions process and having our children attend an “elite college.” I work with independent secondary schools around the country on branding and enrollment marketing. I hear, over and over, about prospective parents of preschoolers asking for the school’s college acceptance list. Yes, it’s about outcomes, but have we become too focused on certain outcomes? And the truth is, not every kid is going to get into Harvard.

Certainly, Harvard is amazing – and a hearty congratulations if your son or daughter received an acceptance letter this spring from Harvard. But there are plenty of other amazing choices for our students – 4,298 choices, in fact. That’s the number of degree-granting, postsecondary institutions in the U.S., according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

From “elite” colleges (Ivy League schools and a select group of other highly ranked schools) to large and medium state universities to small liberal arts colleges and community colleges, we are blessed with a great selection. Any one of the 4,298 colleges and universities will provide you with an outstanding education. It’s what they do. The right school does exist for the right student. Every college admissions professional will back me up on that.

It’s my hope that the college admissions scandal is creating hard, necessary conversations around the kitchen table and conference room about our culture’s obsession with college choice. Our students, already feeling pressure to apply to and be accepted by the “right” college or university, are taking notice. A cursory glance at the opinions on the scandal shared by high school students with the New York Times shows just how deep the pressure goes.

College graduates within the past two years owe, on average, $28,650 in student loans.

I also hope that these conversations include an honest, open discussion about the mounting student debt crisis. Student loan debt is at its highest ever, with 44.7 million borrowers in the U.S. collectively borrowing $1.56 trillion. The only consumer debt category that’s bigger in 2019 is mortgage debt. College graduates within the past two years owe, on average, $28,650 in student loans. Knowledge is power, so here are more statistics on student loan debt

Speak frankly with your child about what you can and cannot afford to pay for a college education well before you begin looking at colleges. Your student needs to understand what having student loan debt means to post-graduation opportunities. Most of us graduated with loans, yes, but families need to weigh the debt on the end of the college experience against the actual experience and education offered.

I’m a proud alumnus of Towson University, located in Towson, Md., in suburban Baltimore. I received an outstanding education for an excellent value. The value-add for me has been the large alumni network that has helped me successfully navigate my career and has provided me with several impactful opportunities over the years. Towson has been consistently ranked as a “best value” school. It is.

My greatest hope is that the news these next few weeks is exciting for the thousands of high-school graduating seniors and their families around the country who played by the rules and applied the old-fashioned way. Congratulations on the next chapter of your life. May it be everything you hope it is and may you take full advantage of all the opportunities offered by your intended college or university. In the end, that is what makes your higher education experience valuable and life-changing, far more than the name that will be on your diploma.






President’s Notes
Jonathan Oleisky

Jonathan Oleisky

Read the latest post from Kalix President Jonathan Oleisky.
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