Higher Ed in the News: 5/30

Photo by Max Böttinger on Unsplash.

This week on Higher Ed in the News, a look at the decision to remove standardized testing requirements, and data on Black female representation among tenured faculty in U.S. higher education.

You can read previous editions of this series here.

New York Times: The grip of social class on college admissions

Even if colleges are removing standardized testing requirements, aiming to be more inclusive, household income and socioeconomic status will still ultimately play a strong role in the admissions process. College essays, one of the remaining pillars of the application, have been shown to favor wealthier students, as Arvind Ashok writes for The New York Times.

Ashok pointed out that applicants with highly-educated parents can get disproportionate help from those parents to make their essays stand out. The author cited multiple studies which found a correlation between the caliber of written content and household income. Household income also has a correlation with the subjects applicants write about in their essay, with higher income students trending towards creative topics and lower income students feeling pressure to “sell their pain.”

“In contrast with much of the rest of the world,” Ashok writes, “American admissions officers have a lot of discretion. Relying on elements like the essay gives them leeway to judge merit away from close scrutiny. The history of the so-called holistic approach — looking at the whole applicant and not just academic metrics — has not always been encouraging.”

Ultimately, Ashok warns that the removal of standardized test scores is not a salve for inequality in the admissions process, as many other factors (grades, extracurriculars, quality of high school) still are tied to finances. “These traits are mostly inseparable from socioeconomic indicators in applications. Colleges still have to make tough decisions in showing what they truly value, but it seems their decision-making will now be more obscured from the public.”


How many tenured professors on your campus are Black women? At Georgetown, it’s less than three (3) percent.

The Chronicle of Higher Education recently released a database showing the representation of Black women in tenured faculty positions. They found that, across public and private two- and four-year colleges in the nation, the average percentage of tenured faculty who are Black women was 2.1%. 

At Georgetown University, 18 out of 653 tenured professors are Black women, or three percent.