Scholars push bold agenda to bring trust to college admissions
Enrollment management officers argue for a new future
By Ross Brenneman
Changing a massive system doesn’t happen overnight, but at an annual conference this year that hosts the nation’s senior admissions and financial aid officers, researchers from USC Rossier and elsewhere argued for major reforms.
“We believe the admissions system in the United States is broken,” said Don Hossler, a senior scholar with USC Rossier’s Center for Enrollment Research, Policy and Practice (CERPP), laying out the thesis of a damning new paper he’s co-authored. “The immodest hope we have is that we can stimulate policy actors at the state and federal level to say ‘We can do something about this.’”
Hossler made the case at the annual CERPP Conference, held in downtown Los Angeles at the end of January.
Hossler’s co-authors and allies in this fight are Jerry Lucido, a professor of education and CERPP’s executive director; CERPP associate director Emily Chung; and Robert Massa, an associate professor in USC Rossier’s Enrollment Management graduate program and former head of enrollment at Drew University.
CERPP’s officers designed this year’s conference to find a way forward on higher education’s most significant enrollment-related issues. Over the course of three days, experts talked about the roadblocks to institutional change, both internal and external, as well as the problems that led them to this point:
- Disagreement over how to define and measure “merit”—the supposed but ambiguous underpinning of the U.S. admissions system
- A lack of preparation for changing high school demographics;
- Growing price and debt aversion; and
- Loss of public confidence in the fairness of the system, as caused by side-door and backdoor admissions policies, as well as prominent college admissions scandals.
“We have no illusions that anything we share at this conference will result in any national decisions,” Hossler says, “but we hope it can result in discussions that results in some level of consensus that plays out differently in each state.”