The Ivies: New Quotas?

John Rosenberg

Every year about this time there are a spate of articles about a very small number of remarkable students who were accepted at all eight Ivy League colleges. This year is no different, and I will get to them presently, but there is one story among them this year that is quite different: Ronald Nelson, from Memphis, got into all the Ivies (plus Stanford, Johns Hopkins, Vanderbilt, and Washington University), but turned them all down in favor of the University of Alablama.

His reason was primarily economic. None of the Ivies et al. offer full merit scholarships, but Alabama offered him a four year free ride plus admission to its selective honors program. The Ivies et al. offered some financial aid but all told him that he “would probably end up paying quite a bit” before graduating. His family could have managed — his father is an engineer and his mother a FedEx manager — but decided not to. Debt “wasn't a burden that Ronald wanted to take on and it wasn't a burden that we wanted to deal with for a number of years after undergraduate," his father said. Nelson concluded that his decision would not hurt his chances of getting into a top flight medical school or other graduate programs, and he and his family agreed to ”put that money away and spend it on his medical school, or any other graduate school.”

The way financial aid is structured these days, middle class families like Nelson’s must assume mountains of debt to attend Ivy League schools that in turn offer “zero family contribution” grants to poor students, allowing them to attend and graduate debt-free. Thus an Ivy League education is, among other things, an income transfer program from the middle class to the poor.

Affirmative Action?

Ronald Nelson is black, but no one familiar with his credentials — a 4.58 weighted GPA, 15 AP courses, 2260 out of 2400 on his SAT and 34 out of 36 on his ACT, National Merit Scholar, president of his senior class, state-recognized saxophone player — could reasonably regard him as an affirmative action admit. Still, as evidence that the corrosive, insidious insinuations of racial preference are so pervasive that they cast a shadow over the accomplishments even of someone as talented as Ronald Nelson, it is reasonable to ask what the chances are of a white or Asian student with qualifications equal to or better than Nelson’s being accepted to all the Ivies et al.

Apparently, not very good. Business Insider took a look at most of the small, elite group of students who were accepted at all the Ivies and then some, and found that they all “have one specific thing in common — they're all the children of immigrants” or immigrants themselves (except for Nelson, who is an American not African black). The only white student in the group is Stefan Stoykov from Indianapolis, who “ten years ago, arriving to the US as an immigrant from Bulgaria, … did not speak a word of English.”

Perhaps even more surprising than the absence of whites from this group of all-Ivy admits is the virtual absence of Asians — “virtual,” not actual, absence because one of the Ivy Elect is Pooja Chandrashekar from Fairfax County, Virginia’s, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, whose un-Ivies included Stanford, MIT, Duke, UVa, Michigan, and Georgia Tech. Her parents, both engineers, immigrated from Bangalore, India, but there appear to be no Chinese-, Japanese-, or Korean-American students who gained admission to this select group by being admitted to all the Ivies.

Harvard and the other Ivies have long been accused of having at least a de facto quota for Asian admissions, and what can accurately if ironically be called the “underrepresentation” of Asians admitted to all the Ivies may provide additional ammunition for a new federal discrimination complaint against Harvard filed by a coalition of more than 60 Asian-American groups.

In the old days the Ivies had a quota on Jews. Now it appears they may have quotas on Asians and native-born whites.

Image: John Greim, Fine Art America

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