CNN’s SCHEME and SCANDAL: Inside the College Admissions Crisis

CNN’s SCHEME and SCANDAL: Inside the College Admissions Crisis


Graduation day. It is a celebration of
one of America’s most cherished ideas. If you’re talented and work hard enough you
can make it to the top. [Tim Cook] It’s time for you to lead the way. [Michelle Obama] You are the living breathing proof that the American Dream endures in our time. It’s you To make it into Yale Law School, the top
law school in the country, students must compete in a rigorous academic contest.
You’re sitting here today because you ranked among the top three tenths of 1%
of a massive meritocratic competition. Earning a degree from Yale is considered
a golden ticket to the American elite. It’s an exclusive club that includes
Bill and Hillary Clinton and four cities Supreme Court justices. But in 2015,
students at commencement got some bad news
from this man the meritocracy is a broken system. “We’ve constructed a gilded cage that ensnares the rich and excludes the rest.”
Yale Law School professor Daniel Markovits told students that the payoff
they’d been working for their whole lives is actually a trap. “Working from 8
a.m. until 8 p.m. six days a week without vacation or sick
days for every week of the year.” In other words the system isn’t even working for
the winners. “We’re now in a state in which a narrow elite is much too rich
for society’s village and works much too hard for its own good.
Markovits’ main argument is that by rewarding a specific kind of achievement
above all else the meritocracy is making Americans miserable and creating a hyper
unequal society. “If you’re a middle-class kid or a
poor kid, you simply can’t compete with the education that rich kids are getting.”
That’s one of the reasons why at 38 of the most elite colleges, including Yale
Princeton and Brown, you’ll find more students from families in the top 1%
than the bottom 60%. But there is another way, an alternate
universe if you will, at a small liberal arts college in the foothills of
Appalachia. Berea College only admits
high-performing, low-income students who have been excluded from our modern
meritocracy. Rich kids need not apply. You heard that right.
Berea will reject their applications. It doesn’t want their money. This college is
completely free. 98% of freshmen are Pell Grant
recipients and come from families that earn an average of $28,000 a year. “It’s a
radical ideology.” These are some of the poorest kids in the country. The
president of Berea, Lyle Roelofs, believes this is one of the key
ingredients to its success. “At Berea, no student feel stigmatized because all
students come from the same economic context.” All students are required to
work for the college at least 10 hours a week. “I know some students who looked up free college in found Berea.” “This sounds fake I was just like there’s a catch.” “I
thought it was a scam. There’s no way.” But there is a way. In 1855 the college was
founded to provide an education for students excluded from elite colleges
including women and freed slaves. How do they do it? Well, it now has a 1.2
billion dollar endowment. While Ivy League schools still admit the children
of wealthy donors and legacies largely for the sake of their endowments, Berea
has made it to the list of America’s hundred richest colleges another way:
shrewd investing in good old fashioned generosity. “There’s a fundamental impulse in
American philanthropy to give opportunity to those who deserve it but
lack the means and we’ve tapped into that for many many years. If you’re
wondering how Berea ranks academically this year it jumped 15 points in the US
News and World Report rankings making it one of the top 50 liberal arts colleges
in the country. But Berea’s president has pledged not to publicize its rankings. He
believes they fuel the college admissions frenzy by focusing on the
wrong metrics: money and status instead of quality.
Berea’s Admissions office doesn’t obsess about test scores or grades. Instead, it
identifies students who display extraordinary potential like McCall
Angler, a senior who had always dreamed of going to college. [McCall] “you see like where he’s at” McCall now works in the admissions
office as a student manager and studies marketing. He spends any moment he can on his true passion, making music. [Song lyrics] “I make impossible possible. Making my problems solvable. Opposite of markable, you can say I’m unstoppable.” “I feel like this is somewhere I belong I
felt very welcomed as soon as I got to the college and was shown like all these
different resources, like wow, these people actually want to help me succeed.”
The college has built a culture in which students help each other to succeed.”It
means the world to me I feel like this is home for me I do feel like this is
home for a lot of people.” Dan Markovits thinks that Boreas model provides one
possible solution to the madness of the meritocracy. “Excellent education is an
education that teaches you what you need to know the knowledge and the skills
that you need in order to do good work that’s useful.” “Dig deeper dig deeper dig
deeper into which path is the clearest one to take that will make you become
successful.” h”e universities are realizing that their current business
model is just too hungry for assets and status and privilege and they’ve got to
diversify.” Up next, the explosive battle in college
admissions over affirmative action.

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