Access to college is a hot issue these days, with policy makers and colleges looking for ways to enroll more low-income, first-generation, and minority students. Many people see the admissions office as a key part of the solution. But as a longtime admissions professional, I suspect just the opposite is true: That the admissions office, especially at highly selective institutions, is the agent that keeps these students out of college in the first place, by creating a game that is heavily skewed in favor of students from high-income, well-educated families.
I don’t believe that this is a matter of purposeful, overt discrimination, but rather a reliance on traditional means of evaluating students coming out of high school, and our own belief about what will make a student successful.
I’m a fan of digging into the numbers to better understand trends—something I do regularly on my blog, Higher Ed Data Stories. And these days the data are clear: If your parents are educated, you have a much better chance of being educated too.