The flawed college admissions process

Lyle Albaugh writes for the Martin Center about basic problems linked to the current college admissions process. Albaugh had a personal encounter with those problems as his daughter moved through the process.

As an entrepreneur, this disappointing view from the backseat of the admissions car suggested that prospects would be better if the college education consumer were in the driver’s seat. If college admissions were like other major purchases, students would know up front how much schools would actually cost.

As I dove in, I learned that the admissions torture is two-sided: colleges face equal barriers to finding and competing for students. The current process is the barrier for both sides.

Despite 4 million students each year applying to almost 4,000 4-year colleges and universities, colleges and students still aren’t finding each other. For example, while the vast majority of low-income high achievers don’t even apply to a single selective college, more than 40 percent of private colleges (many of them selective) and 30 percent of public institutions reported missing their enrollment goals in 2016.

The problem is that colleges compete furiously for students behind the scenes, but they only determine and communicate each student’s unique net price to him or her after the student has applied and completed the financial aid application. In sum, students and colleges lack visibility to each other and the actual, out-of-pocket price of attending many colleges is unknowable until it’s too late.

If this sounds like the problem Airbnb and travel websites have already solved for matching capacity, price, and taste, you’re right.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

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