The Coalition has Arrived
Brave New World had its World Controllers. The Handmaid's Tale the Commanders; The Giver, Community. And the Borg called themselves the Collective.
And now, college admissions has The Coalition. I have to wonder if these elite and highly selective colleges and universities considered the similarity between their name and those of various Evil Empires found in dystopian literature.
More completely called The Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success, this group of over 80 institutions has thrown another monkey wrench into the already confusing college application landscape with its Coalition Application process. They tout the new Coalition Application as a way to help under served students present their credentials in a more holistic way through providing an online "locker" for students to store examples of their academic and creative work beginning as early as 9th grade.
A lot of school counselors, college admissions representatives and independent admissions consultants are, to put it mildly, skeptical.
Launched the end of September, the Coalition presented to a standing-room-only crowd of well over 500 at the San Diego NACAC (National Association for College Admission Counseling) Conference the first week of October. The subsequent discussion has been passionate and plentiful. As someone who did not attend the NACAC Conference, I've simply been trying to keep up.
If you, like most folks, don't have time to read all the blog posts, digest the articles in the popular press, and monitor the Twitterverse, I've picked a handful of responses that seem to summarize the facts and the discussion best.
Jon Boeckenstedt, the Associate Vice President of Enrollment Management for Policy and Planning at DePaul University in Chicago, IL, presents thoughtful and informed commentary on the Coalition (and lots of other higher education topics) on his blog:
- At NACAC, Some Thoughts About the Coalition: https://jonboeckenstedt.wordpress.com/2015/10/02/at-nacac-some-thoughts-about-the-coalition/
- Further reflections were published in the Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/grade-point/wp/2015/10/05/the-new-college-admissions-coalition-is-it-really-about-access/
- And he answers the "So What Can We Do?" question here: https://jonboeckenstedt.wordpress.com/2015/10/06/high-school-counselors-its-your-turn/
Nancy Griesemer, an independent educational consultant in Northern Virginia, weighs in with: http://collegeexplorations.blogspot.com/2015/10/nacac-forum-on-coalition-plans-for-new.html
I'm continuing to monitor the discussion, but it seems to me that the salient issues are these:
- To what extent does the Coalition Application actually increase "access, affordability, and success"? And to what extent is the name of the group just a disingenuous marketing ploy to bolster the already strong position of a relatively small group of elite institutions?
- What are (or will be) the logistics of an application process that could now begin as early as the 9th grade? Who will manage that process for students who do not have involved and educated parents, school counselors with a very low student-staff ratio, and/or a private admissions consultant? And in reference to my first question, how many under served students have any of these?
- What are the consequences of having 13 and 14 year olds under pressure to begin building their online "locker" or portfolio? Will this just amp up the pressure for young people to brand themselves for college admission even more?
The final kicker? The Coalition Application is scheduled to go "live" in January 2016 for use by the already-beleaguered Class of 2017. I have written previously that this group of students is bearing a disproportionate burden of change, and this only adds to the confusion.
Time will tell whether the Coalition will join the Collective, the Commanders, or the Community as an example of a larger-than-life force to be reckoned with, or whether it fades into obscurity. For the present, it bears careful and thoughtful watching.