March 31, 2014

College acceptances: "The Fence Around the Ivy League"

With high school students currently receiving thick and, mostly, thin letters from the colleges to which they applied last year, let me quote some numbers from an old Taki's column of mine:
Immigration boosters insinuate that patriotic Americans should want a nonstop deluge of immigrants to prove We’re Number One. In practice, though, the attitude of America’s most celebrated colleges has been identical to that of our snobbiest country clubs: Who needs the hassles of growth when our prestige is proportional to the multitudes turned away? Hence, over the last generation, elite colleges have concentrated upon becoming more elite, not more accessible.
Some colleges have swollen to keep up with the country’s vibrantly diverse population, such as U. of Central Florida and Arizona State. But they tend to be ones you mostly read about on the sports page, if anywhere. For example, in Back to Blood, Tom Wolfe spoofs Florida International—now the nation’s fourth-largest undergraduate college with 39,147 students, two-thirds of them Hispanic—by calling it Everglades Global University. Nonetheless, few people outside of South Florida will get Wolfe’s joke, because who ever heard of Florida International U.? 
In contrast, consider the growth rate of Harvard, the world’s richest university. The number of undergraduates in its class of 1986 was 1,722. After a quarter of a century, during which the US population grew by about 75,000,000, Harvard’s class of 2011 was 1,726: an increase of 4. 
This is not to say that Harvard isn’t expanding: Faculty and grad students are up, and non-teaching staff skyrocketed.

Similarly, Yale’s undergraduate student body has been the same size since 1978. Five years ago, the second-richest college announced a proposal for adding a couple of dormitories, but construction won’t proceed until another $300 million is raised.

After all, Yale couldn't possibly take out a loan to finance construction. Who would loan money to a college that's been around for only 313 years?
In 2010, MIT unveiled plans to expand undergrad enrollment by six percent, which would only get it back to where it was in the 1990s. ... 
Perhaps the defining activity of American life since the 1960s has been elites conspiring to become more elite. 
            

37 comments:

Anonymous said...

Always amazing that FIU with undergraduate student body nearly forty times that of Harvard and yet its endowment nowhere near that of the Ivies.

Regarding prestige and universities that count and matter, I would suppose FIU simply isn't all that even though many many students want to attend there.

Anonymous said...

Always amazing that FIU with undergraduate student body nearly forty times that of Harvard and yet its endowment nowhere near that of the Ivies.

Steve says the total undergrad population at FIU is 40k, while Harvard admits 1700 undergrads each year. Since not everyone graduates in 4 years, we can estimate Harvard's undergrad student body at 8k. Thus FIU has 5x as many undergrads as Harvard, not 40x.

Also, I don't know the stats, but I imagine most of Harvard's endowment is the result of large donations from ultra wealthy alumni. FIU presumably produces very few such people.

Anonymous said...

"Also, I don't know the stats, but I imagine most of Harvard's endowment is the result of large donations from ultra wealthy alumni. FIU presumably produces very few such people."

Yes, any comparison is obviously laughable. Also, when examining alumni donations one needs to look at the classes that graduated 30-50 years prior. Unfair to use FIU's recently-ballooned student head count.

International Jew said...

Extra, extra! Black high school senior with 4.3 GPA from inner city school gets into Harvard!
http://tinyurl.com/m7qdwcc

Moreover, as you learn from that article, he "scored very high on standardized tests also." Numbers, sorry no numbers, but hey, they were "very high", ok?

Anonymous said...

New report details racial gap among US children


-meh

Hunsdon said...

They're doing us a favor; feeding 1700 or so of these assholes into the general population each year is already destroying our country. What effect would 2500 have?

Anonymous said...

Moreover, as you learn from that article, he "scored very high on standardized tests also." Numbers, sorry no numbers, but hey, they were "very high", ok?
_____________________________

High like Obama's, right?
I'm sure Obama's verbals were decent, but I question that his math score was anything to admire.

Whiskey said...

Steve, you could argue that mass online universities could scale to where the quantity has its own quality. Suppose Southern New Hampshire supplies oh say 75% of all new grads in accounting, marketing, and operations.

Fairly quickly .... twenty years or so the grads will only hire their alma mates grads if they have the same output rate.

A thought experiment only. But online scales differently than physical.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of fences around colleges, did everybody read about Tyler cheap chalupas cowen getting attacked with pepper spray by some random dude in the middle of giving a lecture on vigilante justice

Anonymous said...

You'll find the same dichotomy absolutely everywhere you look. It's an old, old distinction, ie quality versus quantity. It's so baked in to the capitalist sysytem everywhere that you'd think some natural unexplained law of economics dictates it.
Even when talking about an august institution such as Harvard, it's a business model and nothing else, it's all about a harvesting a small number of big margins or a big number of small margins. My suspicion is - I've never studied the subject - that the big margin harvesting model is, by default, the most economically efficient way to go, since gearing ratios and the bottom line is maximized. And then you get the virtuous circle in which exclusivity and high price feed off one another. As I said it's all about the bottom line, Harvard is big business just like any other business.
- And the model runs to nations too, think of Switzerland versus Bangladesh. Only that the political elites of switzerland now think that the way of keeping their particular Harvard going is to turn full circle and go for the Bangladeshi model. Now, the pompous and po-faced who run Harvard go on and on and on about the sanctity of 'diversity', 'equality and inclusivity' but tey would never but never go for open admission. Despite all the 'stupidity of intelligent people' blather, they seem to instinctively know that *their* own ersonal living standards hinge on exclusivity.
Academic staff get it. Poliicians don't get it.
It must be something to do with the remoteness of the chain of causation ie you must be actually be able to 'see' the damage to your own pocket to act. A very, very common and very, very, strong human motivation.

Anonymous said...


"High like Obama's, right?
I'm sure Obama's verbals were decent, but I question that his math score was anything to admire"

Steve Hsu met Obama at his college, Michigan State. He says that Obama is very smart because he asked relevant questions about the facilities he was touring...go figure.

I think Obama's IQ is 125,lower than his Stanford physicist brother, and lower than the presidential average.

The smartest president we ever had was Nixon. That guy was an Ox with an IQ of 140.

Obama likes to talk about struggling and poverty, but all it is is talk. He never experienced struggling growing up.

Nixon was driving his dad's truck from farm to market 5 days a week -- and all of this was before going to school. The guy woke up at 4am every day. What was Obama doing? He was sleeping in, probably still high from his night of pot smoking. Nixon was a teetotaler.

Anonymous said...

MIT's efforts at increasing enrollment suffered a setback this year when an older dorm was condemned for structural problems. So this year they actually let in fewer students than last.

http://tech.mit.edu/V134/N13/admissions.html

They are down to a 7.7% admissions rate. I understand that to maintain exclusivity, you need to turn away a certain % of undesirable uncool people from your club, but if your bouncers are turning away 11 out of 12 customers, something is wrong with your business model.

Anonymous said...

Homeless to Harvard. It's become too much of a cliche.

guest007 said...

If one looks up the statistics of Florida International University at collegereults.org, one will see that it has a four year graduation rate of 16% and a six year graduation rate of 43%. It is a 1050 SAT school but only has a 50% admission rate. Compared to the 85% four year and 95% six year graduation rate at Harvard.

Anonymous said...

In a world of diversity and inclusion, private is the way to go. Private neighborhoods, schools, roads, clubs, etc. Private is the future.

SFG said...

"They are down to a 7.7% admissions rate. I understand that to maintain exclusivity, you need to turn away a certain % of undesirable uncool people from your club, but if your bouncers are turning away 11 out of 12 customers, something is wrong with your business model."

Not if the ones who you let in become successful entrepreneurs and give you lots of money.

Anonymous said...

It all reminds me of r/K selection theory in biology and in particular JP Rushton's take on it as applied to human evolution.

Ed said...

Here's a better "black gets into Ivy" story. It has real numbers. Impressive kid but he's not African-American. He's from Ghana, scored a 2250 on SAT and ranked number 11 in his class.

http://on.11alive.com/1hd3Qe5

manton said...

1,700 admissions doesn't necessarily mean that 1,700 enroll. I'm sure Harvard has the highest "yield" (or close) of any school, but still, several hundred of those admitted will not enroll. They'll either go somewhere else they like better, or where they got more money, or they will take time off to do something else.

One ranking says that Harvard's "yield" (% of those admitted to matriculate) is 80%. But then it lists the total undergrad population as 10,000. Not sure how that math works, unless there are a ton of 5th and 6th year seniors. That gets expensive for poor dad!

Anonymous said...

Havard is a large corporation with a small school attached.

thirdtwin said...

Yeah, well, Walmart is more exclusive than Harvard, so there.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/03/28/wal-mart-has-a-lower-acceptance-rate-than-harvard/



slumber_j said...

Undergraduates don't much hang around to pay for extra semesters at Harvard: they typically take time off to work or travel or whatever. Mostly willingly, but sometimes not... So as I recall, the number of actually matriculated students running around Harvard College tends to hover around 7,000.

JSM said...

"Extra, extra! Black high school senior with 4.3 GPA from inner city school gets into Harvard!"

And did you notice?


"He also enjoys academics, and he has a 4.3 high school report card average, adjusted for the demanding International Baccalaureate courses he takes.

4.3 *adjusted*.

IOW, he *would* have had a 4.3 -- if he'd taken the dumbed-down stuff all the other black kids in the school did.

Never mind what his *actual* GPA is in the classes he took (which, apropos of nothing, of course, all the White kids who got into Harvard also took, and actually DID get a 4.3 GPA.)

Otis said...

Harvard and Yale (and others) don't need to borrow any money to expand. Harvard's endowment at YE 2012 was $30.435 billion. Yale's was $19.345 billion.

Rounding out the top 10 are the Univ of Texas system ($18.3B), Stanford ($17B), Princeton ($16.9B), MIT ($10.1B), Michigan ($7.7B), Columbia ($7.7B), Texas A&M ($7.6B) and Northwestern ($7.1B). My alma mater, the University of Virginia, had a paltry $4.8 billion.

To the commenter mentioning alumni 50 years down the road being what matters, recently a 1950's graduate from Yale - classic WASP establishment type, graduated from Yale, served in the U.S. Army, went into business with his father, now is the retired chairman of a Fortune 500 corporation with every golf membership you can imagine -"anonymously" gave Yale $250mm. Yes, a quarter of a billion dollars. His brother (served in the USMC) gave his (different) alma mater $100mm about 5 years ago.

Steve knows who is, not that it matters for this post. I highly doubt he knows how much TPTB at Yale hate people like him now.

James Kabala said...

International Jew and Ed: Here is another one (Hispanic) with documented test scores (at least for subject tests; main SATs not mentioned): http://www.providencejournal.com/breaking-news/content/20140330-from-hard-luck-to-harvard-central-falls-schools-resurgent.ece

JSM: It's actually pretty common for AP or International Baccalaureate classes to be weighted more heavily than other courses. At my (99% white) high school, for example, an A- in AP equalled an A in Level One. I think the "adjustment" referred to is probably a poorly worded reference to such a practice. (Otherwise readers might wonder, "How can you get above a 4.0 to begin with?")

Anonymous said...

"They're doing us a favor; feeding 1700 or so of these assholes into the general population each year is already destroying our country. What effect would 2500 have?" - you have to lower standards to get more, so there'd be diminishing returns.

Anonymous said...

"He also enjoys academics, and he has a 4.3 high school report card average, adjusted for the demanding International Baccalaureate courses he takes.

4.3 *adjusted*.

IOW, he *would* have had a 4.3 -- if he'd taken the dumbed-down stuff all the other black kids in the school did.

Never mind what his *actual* GPA is in the classes he took (which, apropos of nothing, of course, all the White kids who got into Harvard also took, and actually DID get a 4.3 GPA.)


I don't think you understand what "adjusted" here means.

High schools have regular classes and they often have "honors", "AP", "International Baccalaureate" classes. These non-regular classes are supposed to be harder hence they award more points. An A in regular English will garner a 4.0, while an A in honors or AP English will garner higher than a 4.0. Etc.

jody said...

coast guard used to have the lowest acceptance rate, not sure what it is now. quick search says it's up to about 15%, so a lot higher than it was in my day.

USMA is 9%. yield is 83%.

but who would want to go to these places now. what would be the point of serving. it's not just a waste of time - it's an actual mistake. i guess when you're 18 you don't realize this stuff.

no idea that you're joining sheldon adelson's army.

Anonymous said...

The yale brothers made their money from the opium trade in Canton. When will chinese americans extort reparations from Yale University for benefiting from the opium trade?

Anonymous said...

This kid got into all 8 Ivy league schools:

http://www.independent.co.uk/student/news/student-kwasi-enin-accepted-by-every-single-ivy-league-university-9229963.html

cap vandal said...

Harvard has enrolled between 1300 and 1350 first time freshmen each year in the last decade.

These schools have fairly large sports programs considered to the size of the student body. This knocks down the number of 'open' slots by more than a handful.

Then you have your students that are prominent for their own achievements. Like actors in Hollywood or Television. Olympic medalists. Publish a book that is highly popular. Not too many of these, but these are the only kinds of 'extra curricular activities that count @ Harvard and their ilk. National Honor Society? Leave it off your application. Maybe winning the Westinghouse (or whatever it is called now) science contest. There are a couple of national math competitions that might help.

Legacies? Not unless there is a building with the family name on it. Or if your name is Bush or Clinton. But they tend to go to Yale. Or you are in a 'development' category that is in or close to the Fortune list of richest Americans. The very top prep schools in the US get to send one or two per year, but they may well qualify on other grounds.

Geographical diversity students. They like to get one from a decent number of the fly over states.

And then your 'diversity students'. Hispanic? More than a few learned Spanish as a first language and have parents that are College professors. Someone that can qualify as a Native American. &c.

That is a decent chunk of the 1700 admissions.

Which brings us back to the stereotypical 'affirmative action' black. Harvard has likely already has enough athletes (who, believe it or not, tend to have solid school credentials) to hit their minimum unofficial quotas to qualify as 'non racist'.

Now -- the single most difficult candidate to recruit -- Black from disadvantaged background with Ivy League level academic qualifications. These handful of students are heavily, heavily recruited. Maybe like a 3* football or basketball player). The less elite schools (ranked 10-30 in US News) have to chose from students from families that are professionals (not infrequently, a lawyer married to a doctor). These families are much more common than people usually believe.

The honors program of a top 30 school has an incredibly difficulty finding a SINGLE black student for their honor program. Among other reasons, the Ivies have hoovered them up. AND, of the qualified (a non trivial number) tend to be more 'pre professional' and don't want to bother. To be honest, the honors program doesn't count for much outside Academia - and not much there.

I have absolutely no doubt that the Black Harvard admit is fully qualified.

There are not many institutions or organizations in America that really give a shit about diversity. And they tend to be at the top of the food chain, and hence, most visible to people that have personal experience with those types of institutions.

At the bottom of the food chain, not so much. The typical college or business is simply trying to survive and claw their way up a notch or two. They don't give a f**k about political correctness.



Reg C├Žsar said...

coast guard used to have the lowest acceptance rate… --Jody

Gerald Ford was CinC when I went in, and draft registration (never mind the draft itself) was moribund. But there were plenty of guys who enlisted not long before, when Vietnam memories were fresh, as a legal method of draft evasion. (What they didn't realize was that while the USCG may be the safest harbor in wartime, it's the most dangerous in peace. A couple of sister cutters we'd moored near in ports we visited went down within a year's time. Coulda been ours.)

There were a lot of college dropouts, and a large chunk of any crew fit the description "weird, but smart".

Our parody of our branch's theme song:

Semper Paratus is a laugh!
We joined to beat the draft.
The only water that we see
is when we take a bath.


Oh, did I mention we were somewhat cynical, as well?

Anonymous said...

""They're doing us a favor; feeding 1700 or so of these assholes into the general population each year is already destroying our country. What effect would 2500 have?" - you have to lower standards to get more, so there'd be diminishing returns."

Harvard says that they could fill their class several times over with fully qualified applicants.

Their class size is about the same as when the US population was 150 million.

And when it drew from a much smaller geographical area. Now it includes the whole world.

As far as 'business model' -- Harvard could charge as much as it wanted to and fill their class with qualified applicants. They would only 'net' about 1/2 that for additional financial aid. They could easily charge $100,000. And probably $300,000 or more. But they are already rich and it would be bad taste to charge all the market would bare. They would also have to admit that they would even CONSIDER a BUSINESS MODEL.

However, it would actually be more honest to indicate how 'elite' the elite undergraduate colleges have become.

Anonymous said...

Black from disadvantaged background with Ivy League level academic qualifications. These handful of students are heavily, heavily recruited


There was a story today about a black kid who got into every single Ivy League School. He was fairly well qualified (2250 SAT) but no way would he have gotten into every Ivy even with 2400s if he were white or (especially) Asian.

Anonymous said...

" but no way would he have gotten into every Ivy even with 2400"

White or Asian students from upper middle class families would NEVER Apply to ALL the Ivy League schools.

Cornell and Darthmouth?

It would go ..... three or four of the Ivy's you find attractive Then Stanford. MIT and Cal tech for quantitative types. And then, maybe

Brown refuses to be an Ivy safety school and tend to reject the obvious Harvard/Yale types. They more or less invented this tactic to improve their acceptance rate and also shock some of the feeder schools. I don't know how far down the food chain this has migrated.

These schools are also recruiting for something like 'grit' that, per the New York Times, prep schools are trying to teach.

Kids from underprivileged backgrounds aren't going to suicide or flip out. They have probably never been on psych meds (at least a third of students at top universities have been on something at some time).

Sometimes these places will pick a french horn player over a similar student because they need one for the orchestra. There will (of course) be an excess of violinists and piano players.

The problem with filling up a class with 2400 SAT scores is that you tend to get kids that have been overly groomed for academics. They have Tiger Moms or the white equivalent. Like an over bred show dog, they can be very fragile.

I get why people are opposed to affirmative action. I also get the argument that there is a correlation between race and intelligence tests -- as well as race and violent crime. But using the same data, doesn't it make sense to argue that a high achieving black is 3 standard deviations above racial means -- and perhaps equivalent to a white that is three standard deviations about the mean?





Ed said...

The kid from Ghana is competitive , top 2% in the class at a suburban high school is nothing to sneeze at. He also seems well adjusted and balanced. He should do ok at whatever school he goes to.

The kid from DC I'm not so sure about. They showed him in class in the local news tonight. The class was a sea of black faces and his speech while not ghetto seemed to be lacking. He probably scored in the 80s percentile wise on SAT. He will probably manage at an Ivy but won't thrive.

Anonymous said...

There was a story today about a black kid who got into every single Ivy League School. He was fairly well qualified (2250 SAT) but no way would he have gotten into every Ivy even with 2400s if he were white or (especially) Asian.

He would have had trouble getting into Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, and even most of the other Ivies, had he been white or Asian.

Assuming he scored equally on each of the 3 SAT sections, his regular SAT i.e. Math plus Verbal SAT would be 1500. A regular SAT of 1500 and a class ranking of 11 or whatever he was and regular extracurriculars like an instrument aren't enough for white and Asian students to get into an Ivy. Most white and Asian students who score higher than 1500 and rank near the top of their classes get rejected by the Ivies. You usually need such scores and grades plus some sort of "hook" like being an athletic prospect, legacy, minority, etc. The black kid's "hook" was, of course, being black.