• Beth & Tim Manners

The New York Times: "Financial aid is no longer just about what you earn and what you have. It’s also about your children and what they do — and that means that good grades can be worth a whole lot of money ... It goes by the name merit aid, and it’s not the same as the more limited academic scholarships of a generation ago. Now, admissions officers often report to bosses with the words 'enrollment management' in their titles, and they can spread the money around much more broadly ... It’s not a scholarship as much as it is a coupon in many cases, one whose value may depend on applicants’ traits ranging from their ZIP code (which can signal affluence) to how quickly they open an email invitation."

"But the merit part — actual academic and leadership prowess — can also matter plenty. That means that grades aren’t just a factor in getting into a first-choice school, but also in what you might pay for a residential undergraduate education ... The result is an elaborate parallel financial aid system that can totally upend the psychology of picking a college. And because nearly all but the most selective schools now use merit aid at least a little, list prices are increasingly irrelevant for most families. Classrooms at public institutions ... have become more like airplane cabins, where people often pay many different amounts via extensive menus of possible prices."

"It started innocently enough, with private colleges seeking a bit more prestige a few decades ago. They hoped extra money for high-achieving students might attract others who wouldn’t need inducements. Instead, a full-on arms race broke out, slowly, and then seemingly all at once. If one school started offering a discount, similar colleges vying for the same kids had to do the same ... Colleges do not ask applicants to apply separately for merit aid in many instances. That way, when a bucket of money arrives alongside an acceptance notification, it feels like a freebie."

  • Beth & Tim Manners

The Los Angeles Times: "Every college has its brag sheet. But the University of California has taken it to a whole new level with a 123-page report of exhaustive detail on jobs created, research performed, start-up businesses launched, tax dollars generated and students served." For example: "In 2018, UC graduates earned an average $88,066 — $9,333 more in average annual earnings than other California employees with bachelor’s degrees ... About 40% of UC students are the first in their families to attend college and earned at least $52,800 more annually in 2018 than Californians with only a high school degree."

"UC averages five new inventions a day, with nearly 11,000 active U.S. and foreign patents ... UC Berkeley produced the most startups funded by venture capital among undergraduate campuses in the world except Stanford as of June 2020. (Famous companies founded or cofounded by former UC students include Apple, Gap, Tesla, GoPro, Uber and Lyft)."

UC President Michael V. Drake comments: “UC’s economic ripple effect is so large that it touches every region in the state, including those without a campus or medical center. Beyond economic impact, the University’s contributions in health, innovation and social equity are even more important to the lives of Californians.”

  • Beth & Tim Manners

The New York Times: "The College Board, which administers the SAT college entrance examination and has seen its business battered by the coronavirus pandemic ... will drop the optional essay section from the SAT and stop administering subject-matter tests in the United States." The board will "also continue to develop a version of the SAT test that could be administered digitally — something it tried and failed to do quickly with an at-home version last year after the pandemic shut down testing centers ... The changes to the SAT come as more and more colleges are dropping the requirement that students take the test, as well as its competitor the ACT, a trend driven in part by concerns about equity that received a boost during the pandemic."

"Critics of the College Board said the decision was almost certainly driven by financial considerations. The SAT has in the past represented a substantial portion of the College Board’s more than $1 billion in annual revenue." Jon Boeckenstedt of Oregon State University comments: “The SAT and the subject exams are dying products on their last breaths, and I’m sure the costs of administering them are substantial."

"David Coleman, the chief executive officer of the College Board, said the organization’s goal was not to get more students to take A.P. courses and tests, but to eliminate redundant exams, thereby reducing the burden on high school students applying to college."