Admissions policy needs less generosity

By Editorial Board

Enrollment for Columbia’s fall semester is down 842 students. A good number of those–310 students–did not return because of a failure to meet academic standards. Seemingly, there are students who are unable to keep up with the college’s expectations, and this might have to do with the school’s admission policy.

Columbia accepts more than 80 percent of its applicants, according to its website. This is actually not that high when compared to schools that accept every applicant, such as the University of Texas at Brownsville and Northwestern Oklahoma State University. Even DePaul University accepts 64 percent of its applicants and doesn’t require ACT or SAT scores to be submitted. The difference lies in how a college markets itself to incoming freshmen, a fact

pointed out in an article on Columbia’s website, “Dismantling the Admissions Myth.”

Columbia describes its admissions policy as “generous” and states that the college looks at students’ “potential” alongside their academic performance. Potential can be difficult to judge for an art school that doesn’t require a portfolio or standardized test scores.  Columbia’s mission statement includes a commitment to admitting students “unreservedly” at the undergraduate level. But even other colleges with similar acceptance rates describe themselves as selective. Having a generous and inclusive admissions policy may be responsible for creating the rich creative community at Columbia, but it may have also attracted students who are not ready for college. Making the admissions process more selective would send the message that, although Columbia is an inclusive community, it expects a certain level of performance

from its students. If students receive the message that high school academic performance is not important, why should they value college performance?

Expanding the college’s honors program might also attract students who are more prepared for college. Columbia now has 15 honors courses, but before spring 2010 it had none. By comparison, DePaul offers an honors program that takes the place of a student’s general education courses.

Columbia is a tuition-driven college. High enrollment in previous years has financed Columbia’s well-funded programs and building acquisitions. When the college’s budget is directly tied to enrollment, it is obviously beneficial to have a generous admissions policy. A more selective policy, however, would create more successful graduates, which could lead to more alumni donations and thus a loftier endowment.

The college’s culture of inclusivity is an essential part of the Columbia experience, but changes to the admissions process could send the message that strong academic performance is vital to success. Selectivity does not always equate with excellence, but Columbia needs to raise its standards to attract students who won’t fall short of the college’s academic expectations.