early admissions and equity

Kevlar and I are trying to finish a paper on predictors of applying via early admissions.  There has been some great work on the subject, primarily Avery et al.’s book, but our unique slant is that we’re using a dataset that includes extensive info on students’ high schools such as # of AP courses offered, counselor-to-student ratios, etc.  It’s exciting (in a terribly nerdy way) to be able to examine three levels of data simultaneously–high school context, individual student attributes, and the colleges that they ultimately attend.  We confirm what Avery and everyone else and their mother has found–that early applicants tend to have higher incomes, are more likely to be White–but talk about how higher SES is mediated through high school resources and college-going cultures (or lack thereof).  Avery and friends found that applying early offers a substantial leg up–about an extra 100 points on the SAT when student attributes are controlled for.  So there are questions about the equity of such a policy that gives an advantage to students who are generally already advantaged in the selective college admissions process.

We found a neat working paper, Early Decision and Financial Competition among Need-Blind Colleges and Universities, from Matthew Kim at University of St. Thomas in Minnesota.   He concludes that universities with need-blind admissions can get students to self-sort by income through maintaining early policies (because lower-income students are less likely to apply early).  They admit lower credentialed students who are more likely to be able to pay, all while keeping up their need-blind label.  Kim suggests that overall “…the only way to achieve ‘true’ need-blind admissions (when there is also early decision) is, in fact, to be non-need-blind, and give explicit preference to financial aid students.”  Innnnteresting.

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