Kevin Claiborne

Student - B.S. Mathematics, National Society of Black Engineers

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How do you define "merit" in regards to College Admissions? - Should race/gender be a factor?

There is clearly an issue as to what constitutes "merit" when analyzing who is "college-ready". In my opinion, high school grades are considered the best way to predict college success but grades do not always give a clear representation about a person's character, creativity, or other non-cognitive data, so how does one measure "merit"?
If Standardized testing is to be the only criteria in determining merit, the confirmed bias of SAT tests has to be addressed:
"The confirmation of unfair test results throws into question the validity of the test and, consequently, all decisions based on its results. All admissions decisions based exclusively or predominantly on SAT performance -- and therefore access to higher education institutions and subsequent job placement and professional success -- appear to be biased against the African American minority group and could be exposed to legal challenge," – Harvard Educational Review ( )
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Should race play a role in the college admissions process? (for example: affirmative action) Other related questions to consider: Should colleges lower the bar just to have a more diverse student population? What type of effect will this have on college students? (Will minority students at prestigious universities be looked at like they were only accepted into the Ivory Tower because of affirmative action rather than cognitive ability?) If race is to be removed from college applications, shouldn't students’ names and genders be removed also to make the process completely unbiased?

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I feel that if other criteria are going to be looked at to determine whether or not students are good enough for college, those criteria should be applied & used for all applicants not just minority applicants. What are your thoughts?

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    Jan 20 2013: "The real consequences of meritocracy are to leave intact the vast inequalities of a traditional class society, while convincing both the winners and losers that they deserve their lot in life. " - Michael Young 1958

    The content of merit is defined by the "powerful"

    "The cultural capital of white and wealthy families masquerades as meritorious "natural" ability, rather than as a function of social privilege. " - Oakes, Rogers, Lipton, Morrell
    • Jan 20 2013: Michael Young is brilliant in that quote.

      In my opinion, equality starts with opportunity. We don't all start off equal in life (in terms of opportunity), and sometimes that is unfortunate, but we can ensure that educational opportunities are available to all. Rather than contemplate what merit is, I prefer to simply make higher education available for all.

      We need to make sure community colleges with open admissions are well funded. Continuing on after completing a core curriculum (hence, proving a readiness for college) should be automatic at the 4 year school level.
  • Jan 20 2013: A far better system for admissions would be to simply require that the first two years of college be completed at a community college with a completely open admissions policy. Writing, math, and science skills tend to be the real road blocks to academic success, and community colleges tend to be more geared towards teaching those skills by offering preparatory classes if the students need them . If those areas can be completed at the junior/community college level, admissions to a follow on 4 years school for the remaining 2 years of education should be relatively straight forward and automatic.
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    Jan 18 2013: It might be useful to look at how colleges say they determine merit. The evaluation includes students grades, personal essays, teacher recommendations, profile of things they have done outside of school (such as service and independent learning and projects), artistic talent, leadership, test scores, apparent love of challenge or willingness to challenge, evidence of having successfully overcome obstacles, imagination...

    In my experience students and faculty don't assume students got there because of affirmative action or athletics or legacy unless the student really struggles in a class in which others are not struggling.
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      Jan 20 2013: So if one struggles where others are not, does that throw up a red flag that they weren't accepted based on their merit, but on other factors?
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        Jan 20 2013: No, but if someone is doing just fine, no one, surely, is going to think the person got in on a different basis.
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    Jan 18 2013: We just had this conversation about two months ago.
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      Jan 20 2013: Thanks, I wasn't aware that discussions were taking place on a one-time basis.