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Is the College Admissions Bubble About to Burst? (quotes Mitchell Stevens)

September 22, 2014
U.S. News and World Report
In an article on an increasingly competitive college environment, GSE professor Mitchell Stevens notes that a hope of attaining entrance to elite colleges leads high school students and their parents to devote more time, energy and money to the pursuit than ever before.
Lindsey Cook

Getting into the right college is more stressful and competitive than ever before.

The frenzy is happening all over the United States at this very moment.

Parents are poring over brochures showing pictures of students in front of lush trees. High schoolers are plotting which activities are the “right” ones to enroll. Admissions officials in the nation’s top colleges are beginning to court not just high school seniors to fill their next class, but also juniors, sophomores and freshmen -- even reaching out to some middle school students.

This “right college” frenzy is responsible for hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for companies in college preparation and college admissions, and it’s shortening the childhood of our nation’s teenagers. It’s not sustainable, either.

“It’s not a pretty picture in the ecology overall,” says Mitchell Stevens, Professor at Stanford and author of Creating a Class: College Admissions and the Education of Elites “It’s a hyper competitiveness for a small number of schools and a mal distribution of seats in the more open access. There are 5,000 colleges and universities in the United States, there are plenty of seats in the system overall. There are just a limited number of seats at the top.”

Because of many changing factors over the past decades, the children of the baby boomers entered a college landscape drastically different from the one their parents saw. The group of college-going students is larger than in the past and experiences more stress and a longer timeline for college admissions. While some see the payoff in the form of increased salaries after graduation, many never finish college or, if they do finish, they don’t obtain the skills needed for employment, and are saddled with loans they can’t pay. These factors have led to a crescendo over the last decade that is about to change the landscape of college admissions -- again.

See the full story at U.S. News and World Report.

Mitchell Stevens is an associate professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Education and the Director of the Scandinavian Consortium for Organizational Research at Stanford.

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