Preparing for College

Three Predictions for 2016

The New Year is less than one week old. If you’re like many people, your head is pivoting 180 degrees, looking back at 2015 and then forward to 2016. History teaches us lessons from which we don’t always learn. Our hopes for the future more often than not are tempered by the realities of circumstances, both local and global.

Since my field of interest and expertise, such as it is, involves the world of higher education, I’ve been thinking a lot about the past of and future for those young people who are currently on or aspiring toward campuses across America. So, to start 2016 here on Admit This!, I’d like to offer three predictions for the coming year. Unfortunately (or fortunately) we’ll have to wait until January 2017 to see how prescient I am. Thus …

 


My 2016 Predictions

1. The Ivy/elite admissions frenzy will continue unabated … unless …

I believe that the only hope for a thinning of the masses who furiously seek to get into these august institutions is, oddly, in the hands of the U.S. stock market. If the opening few days of this year are any indication, it’s going to be a hairy year for investors. Analysts have warned for years that the market is sitting precariously on a huge bubble, with stock values highly inflated. The world economies are on shaky ground, especially that of huge American debt holder, China. This house of cards is acutely subject to the winds of multiple forces. Oil prices have gone through the floor, the Middle East is poised on all-out war, American interest rates have once again started to rise, it’s a presidential election year in America, etc., etc.

There are big dominoes involved here. The Ivy League and other so-called “elite” colleges and universities have huge multi-billion-dollar endowments, which drive many of their operational activities, such as (primarily) financial aid and physical plant maintenance, modernization, and expansion. If the market heads south in a significantly extended correction, as numerous experts have predicted, the trickle-down effect on colleges will be immediate and substantial. As financial reserves diminish, so will certain financial aid policies, such as those that claim to meet 100% of families’ demonstrated financial need.

This, in turn, will put increased pressure on students who come from economically disadvantaged families. Schools who now offer an almost cost-free education to students from families whose incomes fall below certain benchmarks will have to shift their aid packages more toward loans and away from outright grants. This would sharply exacerbate the already staggering national student loan debt crisis and shift a large block of applicants to more affordable options, such as state-system schools and community colleges. The fragility of that house of cards would be exposed in bold relief.

However … as Joubert, the skilled professional killer in the film Thee Days of The Condor said regarding those who hire him, “There’s always someone willing to pay.” How true. Unfortunately, a sharp investment downturn would deal a blow to the elites’ policy of overall diversity, limiting the number of students who could not afford the tremendously high costs of top-shelf education. Thus, the old adage, “What goes around comes around” would kick in. What “went around” in elite higher education were those F. Scott Fitzgerald days, where elite schools were primarily — almost exclusively — for the well to do of society, which took the “good” out of the good old days.

Let’s hope that doesn’t happen. If it doesn’t, then, as a codicil to my prediction I’ll speculate that overall acceptance rates of the “top” Ivies, Stanford, MIT, and the University of Chicago, among a few others perhaps, will burrow further into the single digits. That raises the question of when rates will approach three percent, or even lower. As I said, the frenzy will continue unabated … unless …

2. Political correctness on campus will reach the breaking point.

Eventually, enough will become enough. I predict that at some point this coming year, someone or some self-appointed group, will cross the line and challenge their college administrators in such a ludicrous manner that they will inject the entire realm of politically correct protests with a suicide serum.

Administrators across America have become paranoid about “offending” even the smallest segment of their student bodies. To wit:

– Hating pumpkin-spice lattes was declared sexist.

If you say bad things about pumpkin-spice lattes, what you’re really saying is that “girls don’t get to have valid emotions” — at least according to Min Cheng’s op-ed in the Phoenix, Swarthmore College’s student newspaper. …

– A university language guide stated that the word “American” was “problematic.”

According to a “Bias-Free Language Guide” that was used by the University of New Hampshire, the word “American” is offensive and should not be used. Why? Because it “fails to recognize South America” and “assumes the U.S. is the only country inside these two continents” of course! It recommends using “resident of the U.S.” instead …

– A university declared the phrase “politically correct” to be politically incorrect.

According to the “Just Words” campaign at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, PC is offensive because it “has become a way to deflect, say that people are being too ‘sensitive.’” Great point! After all, just look at this list — it’s not like anyone is ever being too sensitive ever. …

– A room full of white people was determined to be a “microaggression.”

Reading this stuff, you might start to think that you can’t say or do anything without it being considered a microaggression — but actually, it’s much worse than that. Get this: If you’re white, you don’t even have to do anything at all. According to a report released by the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, a minority student just “walking into or sitting in” a room full of white people is in itself a microaggression on the part of the white people. …

And so it goes … farther and farther downhill into the rabbit hole of insanity. So, at some point this coming year, someone or some group will step off the cliff of absurdity. I’m trying to imagine the nature of what that protest will be. The examples cited above are bad enough, but apparently they aren’t off-the-pier enough to snap college administrators back into reality.

Let’s see, maybe I could become a PC consultant of sorts, offering otherwise sedentary campus groups fodder with which to occupy their president’s office. On second thought, nah.

.

3. The College Board and Educational Testing Service will undergo a cultural change.

Good ol’ CB and ETS, the arbiters of all that matters for aspiring college students, both undergraduate, graduate, business/law/medical, and beyond. I predict that the collective College Board/ETS cartel will continue to see their death grip on testing continue to loosen as colleges and parents become increasingly aware of the monopolistic and dictatorial practices of these entities whose reign is fast loosing its luster. To wit:

.

– AP Classes Are a Scam

.

The College Board earns over half of all its revenues from the courses — and, in an uncertain environment, students keep being suckered. …… Fraudulent schemes come in all shapes and sizes. To work, they typically wear a patina of respectability. That’s the case with Advanced Placement courses, one of the great frauds currently perpetrated on American high-school students.That’s a pretty strong claim, right? You bet. But why not be straightforward when discussing a scam the scale and audacity of which would raise Bernie Madoff’s eyebrows? …… The college admissions process today is a total crapshoot. At least for the most competitive colleges, nobody in the applicant pool has any certainty anymore as to what will secure admission. In the face of that uncertainty, one rational form of behavior is to take the shotgun approach, blasting away at the admissions committee with every weapon in the student’s armory: multiple AP courses, ridiculous amounts of extracurricular activity, and do-gooder volunteer work rivaling Mother Teresa’s. …

… But it shouldn’t be the customer’s responsibility to stop a scam. The customer buys into it because the con artist is so skillful and the world is so uncertain.  The only way to stop the College Boards of the world is to expose them. Tell people to be wary.

So, students and parents: beware.

One man’s opinion, to be sure, but public sentiment is beginning to weigh on CB/ETS. Another example:

– College Board Caves To Conservative Pressure, Changes AP U.S. History Curriculum

After backlash from conservatives that AP guidelines released last year by the College Board were unpatriotic, the new AP standards, which are effective immediately, will use the phrase “American exceptionalism,” and includes the founding fathers, according toNewsweek. The College Board said it “previously assumed it wasn’t something it needed to spell out as part of what would be taught in an American history course.”

Some of the main criticisms of the guidelines, conservatives voiced, were less emphasis on the founding fathers and more emphasis on slavery. The guidelines also included earlier American history that included violence against Native Americans and mentioned the growing influence of social conservatives. There were also complaints that World War II was not emphasized enough, but military victories will be given more attention in the new standards. Mentions of slavery will be “roughly the same” as previous standards, according toNewsweek. …

Today’s increasing — and sometimes militaristic — consumerist mindset is going to have an effect of CB/ETS, I predict. Concerning their “non-profit” status:

… “The College Board is more interested in marketing and selling things than it is in its primary responsibility, promoting equity and educational opportunity,” said Ted O’Neill, who stepped down as admissions dean of the University of Chicago in 2009 and served on several College Board committees. …

I think the “cultural” breaking point for CB/ETS, just like for PC on campus, is near. So, I see a change blowing in the wind. We’ll just have to see whether or not it’s a breeze or a hurricane. I vote for the latter, weather or not, so to speak.

***

Mark your calendars for January 2017. By then we’ll know just how accurate my Three Predictions for 2016 were.

**********

Be sure to check out all my college-related articles at College Confidential.