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Legacies and Other Quotas?

The kids behind the Freedom Budget are now negotiating with various senior members of the administration. Whether they represent anyone but themselves is still entirely unclear. If you take the number of students who occupied Phil’s office, then approximately thirty people presume to speak for — whom exactly? — all minority students? all liberal students? They haven’t said, and Phil and his team have not asked.

In the Freedom Budgeters’ conversation the other day with Dean of Admissions Maria Laskaris ‘84, the good Dean was reported by The D to have made the following comments:

Laskaris said she found the meetings a helpful way of gathering feedback, particularly regarding the needs of undocumented students.

She spent a significant portion of the admissions meeting discussing why quotas are not used in the admissions process, she said, citing legality as well as the nature of a “holistic” admissions process. [Emphasis added]

No quotas, you say, Maria? Let’s test that proposition against a couple of areas of admissions. First: legacy students. According to the Dartmouth Factbook, for the Classes of 2011, 2012, and 2013, the percentage of legacies in the incoming class was a rock solid 11%; since the Class of 2014, the percentage jumped to an equally solid 14%:

Legacy Quota.jpg

Interestingly enough, the Class of 2014 was also the year in which the percentage of incoming students from private schools rose from a consistent range in the low-to-mid 30%’s to exactly 40% over the past four classes (including the Class of 2017).

Private-Public Schools in Admissions CompA.jpg

What do you think happened to have these percentages jump to new and entirely consistent plateaus? Did the legacy kids all of a sudden get smarter? Did private school students increase their level of achievement from one year to the next, and then stay at exactly that level in the following years? Me thinks not. Perhaps this change was just a coincidence?

As we have written before, the Class of 2014 was the year in which the College decided to increase cash income from students. Maybe Maria’s use of the word “holistic” refers to the financial “hole” that Jim Kim said that the College was in. In any event, in that year Early Decision admits jumped (ED kids can’t negotiate financial aid) and both legacy and private school admits were increased substantially (they come from richer demographics). One of Kim’s ways out of the budget crisis was to raise the quotas — ooops, I said it — for these types of students. As the statistician Ralph Waldo Emerson opined, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” It is also a sign that policy decisions have been made.

But, perhaps Maria has another explanation for us.

Addendum: In a previous series on the subject of affirmative action, we commented on the notorious “Asian Quota” that exists at the College and at other top schools:

On a larger scale, Dartmouth, after a certain lag, has joined its Ivy sisters in enforcing a quota on Asian-Americans. Twenty years ago, Dartmouth and Princeton were at the low end of Asian-American enrollment in the Ivy League: under 10% of students. Yale, Brown and Cornell all briefly topped the 20% mark in that era. However, for the last decade or so, all of the Ivies have admitted Asian-American students in an increasingly narrow range of 12-18% of each class, despite the significant rise in the number of college-age Asian-Americans in the United States.

Asian Enrollment Trends.jpg

In contrast, Caltech’s admissions rate (the top red line) seems to approximately track the rise in the number of young Asian-Americans.

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