Why did the College Admissions Scandal Happen and How to Solve It

This blog’s focus will be on U.S. high school students applying for admissions to US-based degree granting colleges or universities. Our focus will be on academic institutions that will grant students an Associate of Arts (AA) degree or a 4-year Bachelor’s degree. Currently, about two million (2,000,000) students that are graduating from US high schools enroll as freshmen each year in a 2-year or 4-year degree granting institutions. Those two million students represent about one-half of all students graduating from high school each year — the balance of each year will enter the job force, the military or vocational training programs (or the military) programs. Here is a summary of how the 2 million graduating students breaks down:

1) Students enrolling in a 4-year BA/BS granting college: 890,000 44%

2) Students enrolling in a AA program with intention of transferring to a BA/BS granting college: 351,000 17%

3) Students with an AA degree as only goal: 770,000 38%

Totals: 2,011,000 100%

Basically, all US high school graduates can continue their academic education post high school since community colleges and many non-selective 4-year colleges will admit nearly all who apply. Therefore, on a “macro” basis if one looks at the entire US college picture, there should not be an “admissions problem” due to lack of seats. In 2017, there were 4,360 degree-granting institutions.

So, What Caused the recent ‘College Admissions Scandal’?

To begin to understand the factors behind the recent scandal it is necessary to look at the trends over the past 19 years. The very dramatic change has occurred at our country’s most selective colleges. In this blog, ‘Selective Colleges’ will be those institutions that accept less than 20% of those that apply. This number comes to 57 institutions as of 2019. In 2001, for these selective colleges 31% of all applications were accepted — then, in 2019, the acceptance rate had dropped to only 13.1%. In the case of the most selective, that acceptance rate was about 4%. During this 18 year period, the number of available “seats” remained nearly constant at about 100,000.

What caused a dramatic decrease in selective college acceptance rate?

The number of applications received nearly tripled from 2001 to 2019 (from 660,000 to 1,670,000) although the number of high school students did not change very much. The chart below shows this progression over time, and what it may look like over the next 11 years.

Applications Submitted & Acceptance Rate at Selective US Colleges

Those 1,670,000 applications were submitted by about 530,000 graduating seniors. Since there were only 100,000 “seats” for those 530,000 applicants,
it meant that 430,000 US high school students received, on the average, 3.2 rejection letters from these selective colleges and instead chose to attend a less selective college.

Back in 2001, the average number of selective college applications per student is estimated to have been about 2.0. Therefore in 2001, there would have been 330,000 applicants vying for those 100,000 seats. Thus, the number of students being rejected by all of the selective colleges to which they applied was estimated to be 230,000.

Of course, the students that were not able to get an acceptance at one of the selective colleges were able to get into a less selective college.

Therefore, from an overall supply of “seats” versus the demand for traditional college admissions with the newly graduating high school seniors, there should not be a problem.

There must be a perception that getting into (and eventually graduating) from a selective college is very important.

Is it important to attend a Selective College in the United States?

There is no one answer to the above question. There are many fields or career paths where college is important and securing a future job is easily possible with a degree from a public or less known private school. These colleges have talented professors, strong academics, an active campus life, and a diverse student body.

1) K-12 Teacher
2) Hospitality
3) Retail
4) Law enforcement
5) Nursing & caregivers
6) Construction
7) Manufacturing below top management
8) Middle management
9) Military
10) Small business owner, or employee

What Career Paths “Push” One toward a Selective College Path?

Let’s examine the career paths where parents’ think it is important to attend a selective US college. Here is a short list of careers where a selective college degree is often deemed helpful and may require a graduate degree:

1) Lawyer
2) Physician
3) Top management
4) College professor
5) Scientist
6) Senior position in state or federal government

Not all 17–18 year old high school seniors know what future career that they will want to pursue. Therefore, it is likely that their family background and circumstance will influence their attitudes. This is where the seeds of the College Admissions Scandal were born — the parents of high school seniors that were likely to be in that group of 430,000 graduating seniors who might be rejected by a selective college would want to change the odds in their child’s favor by cheating. There are many families that invest in preparing their children to do well with the SATs and college guidance counselors. Annually, about $500 million is spent on the test prep and coaching area for US juniors and seniors — which comes out to about $500 per family or student if we use 1 million as the estimated number of US high school students putting out significant money for SAT test prep etc.

The recent scandal featured about $25 million being spent by 50 families or $500,000 per child — an over-the-top amount to ‘game’ the college admission system for over ten selective US colleges. The sort of legitimate amount needed to “buy” a college seat would be the funding of new building and that would take several million dollars. So, we have a group of wealthy (but not super rich) parents attempting to get their child into a selective college for “only” $500,000. Much of this was driven by the parents’ own egos and potentially provide their child higher earnings if they got a degree from an elite school.

What does AccuChain Offer for College Bound Students?

AccuChain is developing a platform that will allow high school students to select trusted third party validators for their extracurricular achievements. We expect that there will be an increase in the importance of these achievements in the admissions decisions at many universities. SAT and ACT test scores have become less valuable since rich students have too much of an advantage in test preparation. One example where a student from a disadvantaged background could even the “playing field” of college admissions is having all their achievements validated by their principal, teachers, coaches, supervisor, club leaders, after-school directors, and more. For example, if a student worked on the school newspaper they could input information about their role and send a request to the supervising teacher to validate and provide a synopsis of their involvement and work. In addition, the student can upload any newspaper stories they wrote and awards they received. Once validated, the student has a permanent record of their achievement on AccuChain.

If they were on the basketball team, they could input information about their participation on the team and have their coach validate their role and provide comments about the student’s action on the court and teamwork with fellow players. If the student was featured in the local newspaper or won any awards, those could be uploaded and stored on AccuChain. Now when a student applies to their college of choice, they can send the admission’s officer a link to their password protected records on AccuChain. That same link could be sent to Scholarship Committees, hiring managers for Internships, and supervisors for a summer job.

Students can create their validated achievements using AccuChain’s blockchain technology and add to it over the years creating a history of achievements — and when they want that first job after college they can share that link with the hiring manager.