In earlier posts (for instance, here and here), this blog has honed in on the newly-formed Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success. Remember those 80+ schools that are “working over the next few months to develop tools and processes that will help to address many of the barriers that prevent students from attending college or successfully earning a degree”? The Coalition’s goals are certainly admirable – I don’t think anyone would dispute that. However, since its formation, The Coalition has found itself on a bit of a roller coaster ride, including as the recipient of some harsh criticism at the NACAC’s 71st National Conference in San Diego last month.
Since early October, their project has proven to be a dynamic, ever-changing, work-in-progress. For instance, the original roll-out date for The Coalition’s online tools has been moved from January to April of 2016. “That was in early October”, you may be thinking. “What has happened since then?” An excellent question!
One of the themes that seems to keep rearing from the dark depths of the college counseling waters is the notion that starting the college admissions process when students are only 9th graders is simply too early in a teen’s high school career, and that it will only serve to create even more stress and angst for teens and their families. As one college counseling association stated in a letter to The Coalition, “Based on all adolescent development models, starting to ‘collect items’ and for parents to ‘obsess’ in the 9th grade will most likely produce significant concern/anxiety over the college process at a time when all of our students’ focus should be on the growth of their personal and academic selves.” The Coalition, on the other hand, has made it clear that “the purpose of familiarizing students with the process at an early age should minimize stress during the actual application process and provide a counseling resource for low-income applicants.” Who is right?
Another recent development is that Georgetown University declined to join The Coalition due to their belief that it “makes applying to colleges more complicated and less helpful to low-income students.” What?! The Coalition’s website, in contrast, states, “The Coalition is developing a platform of tools to help reduce these barriers (to attending college and completing a college degree) and make progress in leveling the playing field for students from all backgrounds.” Who is right?
And so the roller coaster ride continues, and it may take some time before we’re able to determine whether statements from The Coalition or its critics prove more in-line with reality. But don’t despair! I leave you on a hopeful note, namely that the very fact that we’re thinking about these issues and having these conversations is a good thing. As this article from The Chronicle of Higher Education (aptly entitled, “Why The Debate Over A New Admissions Process Matters”) states, “In a field defined by age-old rituals, The Coalition has, at the very least, inspired a conversation about how the experience of applying to college could be different.”
The Coalition is confident that the changes it proposes will lead to hugely positive developments in the world of college admissions. Others aren’t so sure. Who is right? Will this roller coaster ride end with its riders feeling energized and proud of what they’ve accomplished or queasy and full of regret for having embarked in the first place?
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