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Menopausal Mother Nature

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The Coming College Adversity Score Scam

As I wrote before, the College Board is going to award “adversity” scores to its college-bound test-takers (essentially the inverse of a privilege score).  As I wrote earlier, beyond self-identification questions that can’t be trusted, the best data for this will be the student’s address.  I predicted that rich people would quickly hack this system:

The obvious hack for this is for parents to buy or lease an empty room somewhere in a high adversity zip code and report this as their child’s address.  To get away with this, probably will need to have also given this address to the school, which might be hard for public schools but is perfectly possible at a private school.   “Ah, Ms. Huffman, what was it like growing up in Watts?”  I am sure there are already folks gearing up to sell this service.

Several people, including my wife, criticized this concern as overwrought.  First, I would like to say I am not only not overwrought, I am not even wrought.  Frankly, I am past caring what happens to colleges.  I consider their model so broken that they deserve whatever they get.  The faster their whole model falls apart, the faster we can rebuild advanced learning (only part of which should be on a campus).

Second, read this and tell me that my hypothesis was exaggerated:

Well-off Chicago residents have been exploiting a legal loophole to obtain need-based college financial aid and scholarships by giving up legal guardianship of their children. 

The tactic, which has been used by dozens of families (and maybe more according to Propublica Illinois), involves handing over guardianship to a friend or relative during the student’s junior or senior year in high school – allowing them to declare themselves financially independent from their families. This qualifies them for federal, state and university financial assistance, according to the report.

“It’s a scam,” said Andy Borst, director of undergraduate admissions at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “Wealthy families are manipulating the financial aid process to be eligible for financial aid they would not be otherwise eligible for. They are taking away opportunities from families that really need it.”

Based on this, if anything my suggestion was too modest.  Accommodation address?  Hah, that is for middle class wannabees.  We are going to rent an inner city family to take guardianship of our kids.   “Wanted:  single-parent impoverished household with history of drug problems and homelessness wanted for temporary adoption of our honor student.  Past incarceration a plus.  Whites and cis-gendered need not apply.”

Postscript:  Yes, I did read Kurt Schlichter’s novel People’s Republic and found it a bit light fairly entertaining, though I am a sucker for dystopia novels of most all flavors.  At the time I thought his privilege score idea to be, uh, overwrought, but it appears he was fairly prescient.

Postscript #2: I am trying to figure out what conspiracy theory I can craft and spread on social media based on the fact that “dystopia” is not included in the Chrome (or the Brave version of Chrome) spell check dictionary.

Postscript #3:  A reader reminds me of this story of the disproportionate abuse by rich people of special needs test taking accommodations.

From Weston, Conn., to Mercer Island, Wash., word has spread on parenting message boards and in the stands at home games: A federal disability designation known as a 504 plan can help struggling students improve their grades and test scores. But the plans are not doled out equitably across the United States.

In the country’s richest enclaves, where students already have greater access to private tutors and admissions coaches, the share of high school students with the designation is double the national average. In some communities, more than one in 10 students have one — up to seven times the rate nationwide, according to a New York Times analysis of federal data.

In Weston, where the median household income is $220,000, the rate is 18 percent, eight times that of Danbury, Conn., a city 30 minutes north. In Mercer Island, outside Seattle, where the median household income is $137,000, the number is 14 percent. That is about six times the rate of nearby Federal Way, Wash., where the median income is $65,000.

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