9.12.06

ADDRESSING THE EXCESS DEMAND FOR PRESTIGE DEGREES. Coyote Blog offers a number of suggestions to Increase Ivy League Capacity.
My other thought is that you don't have to be Asian to worry nowadays that near-perfect SAT's and grades are not enough to get one into the Ivy League. As you can see here, placing in the 99th percentile on SAT's only gives one a 1 in 5 shot at getting in to Princeton. The other thing you can see is that top Ivy's are being honest when they say they want more than just good grades -- you can see at Princeton and Harvard that moving from 91st to 99th percentile on SAT's does little to improve a person's prospect of getting in. (On the Asian discrimination issue, that means that more than half of the kids in the top 1 percentile of SAT's will get turned down by Princeton, and some of these will be Asians. Whether that is discrimination or just brutally tough admissions is hard to say).

Which leads me to my main point -- the Ivy League needs to find a way to increase capacity. The number of kids that are "ivy-ready" has exploded over the last decades, but the class sizes at Ivy schools have remained flat. For years I have been campaigning at Princeton for this, and I am happy to see they are increasing the class size, but only by a small amount. Princeton has an endowment larger than the GNP of most countries. To date, it has spent that money both well and poorly. Well, because Princeton is one of just a handful of schools that guarantee that if you get in, they will make sure you can pay for it, and they do it with grants, leaving every student debt free at graduation. Poorly, because they have been overly focused on increasingly what I call the "educational intensity" or the amount of physical plant and equipment and stuff per student. In this latter case, we have got to be near the limit of spending an incremental $10 million to increase the education quality by .01%. We should instead be looking for ways to offer this very high quality of education to more people, since so many more are qualified today.

By the way, one of the reasons Ivy League schools don't take my advice is because of the faculty. The very first thing that the faculty wants is more endowed chairs, more equipment, more office space, etc. The very last thing most faculty wants is more students that would force them to actually teach more rather than publish and do research.
I have maintained for some time now that the wise strategy for the flagship universities and the mid-majors has been to cater to that excess demand rather than give into the mob's demand for universal access, standards be d**ned, and that such a strategy is not likely to be fostered by urging faculty to forever be testing the job market. It doesn't have to be Princeton or Harvard offering that "very high quality" of education as the efforts of Illinois and Wisconsin to go after Coasties as a way of increasing the revenue yield.

That last paragraph, however, perpetuates the myth, popularized in Profscam, wherein the Harvard history majors' association sold shirts imprinted [History], calling attention to the Harvard notation for [class not available] because large chunks of the faculty were involved in grants or advising doctoral students or perhaps spending too much time in committees. Does the Coyote really believe that there is some vast reserve of excess capacity that can be tapped at Princeton or at Harvard or anyplace else to serve more undergraduates with the existing faculty? In the mid-majors, journalism faculty can be enticed away by smaller class sizes. That argument probably generalizes to the Ivies. Or should Ivy faculty be told "Stop advising those Ph.D. students!" Or "Stay out of your lab and quit seeking grants!"

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