Tough Testing

One of the less remarked-upon gender gaps is in college attendance: Young men have fallen far behind young women. Males now make up only 43 percent of college students despite continuing to earn slightly higher average scores on college admission tests.

Perversely, journalist Paul Tough’s much-praised new book, The Years That Matter Most: How College Makes or Breaks Us, calls for America to worsen this inequality by dumping the SAT and ACT for being biased toward boys.

To Tough, college entrance examinations are just another conspiracy to make white boys look good.

One important fact that Tough points out is that prestigious colleges have vastly more money to spend per student than do less famous colleges. Although list-price tuitions at private colleges are virtually the same (and the average private student now gets a 51 percent discount as “financial aid”), the famous colleges receive immensely larger gifts, so they have far more to lavish upon their students. The Years That Matter ... Tough, Paul Best Price: $11.89 Buy New $9.99 (as of 05:55 UTC - Details)

Consider Harvard (which, perhaps not coincidentally, took the lead in developing the modern testing system in the 1930s and 1940s).

In 2013, the president of Harvard, Drew Gilpin Faust (or Doctor Faust), announced a $6.5 billion fundraising goal, the most ambitious campaign in higher-education history. But when it was over, Harvard had raised $9.6 billion. (It’s almost as if Harvard is adept at picking applicants who, decades later, will write giant checks to Harvard.)

So, in the unlikely event that you get a chance to go to Harvard rather than to Directional State U., you might well consider it. For example, if you run into a rough patch, Harvard has the resources to help you avoid flunking out. And if you are thriving intellectually, Harvard has all sorts of delightful amenities for the best minds.

In turn, some lucrative careers such as consulting and investment banking don’t recruit much at non-rich colleges.

By the way, this history suggests one reason Harvard gives advantages in admission to legacies and athletes in minor sports. I strongly suspect that donors who write eight-figure checks to Harvard tend to be some combination of:

(1) Son of a Harvard grad;

(2) Did well on his SAT;

(3) Competed on a minor sports team like rowing or squash; and

(4) Now wants his daughter or son to go to Harvard.

I had hoped that Tough would have gotten access to the secret statistical models that colleges have created of who donates and who doesn’t, but he doesn’t seem to realize that they have studied this.

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