It’s been a while since I was in a classroom as a student, and the Internet was still pretty bare bones by the time I got my post-grad degree in 1996. I more or less assumed that universities had made good use of online innovations in the years since, especially when it came to processes like college admissions.
Those assumptions were wrong, and schools haven’t kept up at all. In a story in the new print edition of the Washington Monthly, however, Kevin Carey reports on how and why the status quo will see some overdue change.
The editors’ summary of the cover story helps set the stage for a really interesting piece:
In America circa 2011, if you’re looking for antiques, jobs, or dates, chances are you’ll go to EBay, Monster.com, and Match.com — Web-based electronic marketplaces that use powerful, data-driven algorithms to quickly and efficiently match supply and demand. If you’re a student looking for a college, by contrast, you’re stuck with an archaic system that still relies on chintzy brochures, college fairs, campus tours, and the physical transmission of paper. The system is not only slow and inefficient, but deeply unjust: smart lower-income students whose families don’t know how to work the system wind up going to the least-challenging schools, leaving affluent kids to dominate the elite, selective ones.
But that’s about to change. As Kevin Carey explains in a ground-breaking new article in the Washington Monthly, the college admissions market is about to be digitized. A Boston-based firm called ConnectEDU is rolling out a Facebook-like networking platform that radically simplifies the task of students finding and applying to colleges and of colleges finding and recruiting students. If the software works as advertised, students across the academic spectrum will be better matched to colleges where they can succeed. And slots in America’s most elite colleges will be even harder to come by, as brilliant but isolated students, boxed out by the current system, find a clearer path to the Ivy League. The higher education system, in other words, will become more like the meritocracy it has long pretended to be.