WSJ: Colleges Encourage Low SAT Scorers to Apply – Only to Reject Them

The Associated Press
Alex Brandon/AP

A report published by the Wall Street Journal claims that American colleges and universities seeking to appear more exclusive buy the names of low-scoring SAT takers and then encourage them to apply — only so that they can reject the students.

According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, American colleges and universities are inviting students to apply with the intention of rejecting them. Why? Institutions are constantly looking to increase the number of applicants. With more applicants, colleges are able to reject more students for a small number of admission seats. This, in turn, lowers the university’s acceptance rate, which places the university higher in college rankings.

The report claims that American colleges and universities buy the names of low-scoring SAT takers from the College Board and send them invitations to apply. The invited students send in their filled out applications and submit the application fee, but these institutions have no intention to accept these students. In fact, they plan to reject them.

Terry Cowdrey, who served as Vanderbilt University’s acting dean of undergraduate admission in 1996 and 1997, confirmed to the Wall Street Journal that American colleges and universities engage in this practice.

“The top 10% of universities don’t need to do this. They are buying some students’ names who don’t have a great chance of getting in,” Cowdrey said . “Then the kids say, ‘well why did you recruit me if you weren’t going to let me in?’ They do it to increase the number of applications; you’ve got to keep getting your denominator up for your admit rate.”

And the selling of student data is not a small business. In 2017, the College Board, the organization that administers the SAT, recorded $100 million in revenue. Much of this revenue came from selling student data, including SAT test results, to colleges and universities.

College Board’s business also benefited over the past decade as students began applying to more colleges. College Board recorded $100 million in revenue from its business that includes selling student data in 2017, according to the latest tax return available, up from $63 million in 2010. College Board declined to say how much money the sale of names generates within that business unit. It said it reinvests funds from Search into services that support students.

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