The College Board plans to assign an adversity score to every student who takes the SAT to try to capture their social and economic background, jumping into the debate raging over race and class in college admissions.
This new number, called an adversity score by college admissions officers, is calculated using 15 factors including the crime rate and poverty levels from the student’s high school and neighborhood. Students won’t be told the scores, but colleges will see the numbers when reviewing their applications.
The College Board, the New York based nonprofit that oversees the SAT, said it has worried about income inequality influencing test results for years. White students scored an average of 177 points higher than black students and 133 points higher than Hispanic students in 2018 results. Asian students scored 100 points higher than white students. The children of wealthy and college-educated parents outperformed their classmates.
Yale University is one of the schools that has tried using applicants’ adversity scores. Yale has pushed to increase socioeconomic diversity and, over several years, has nearly doubled the number of low-income and first-generation-to-attend-college students to about 20% of newly admitted students, said Jeremiah Quinlan, the dean of undergraduate admissions at Yale.
“This [adversity score] is literally affecting every application we look at,” he said. “It has been a part of the success story to help diversify our freshman class.”
James Conroy, director of college counseling at New Trier High School, which serves several affluent and mostly white communities north of Chicago, said the focus on diversity by elite colleges is already high and the adversity score would magnify that.
“My emails are inundated with admissions officers who want to talk to our diversity kids,” Mr. Conroy said. “Do I feel minority students have been discriminated against? Yes, I do. But I see the reversal of it happening right now.”
At Florida State University, the adversity scores helped the school boost nonwhite enrollment to 42% from 37% in the incoming freshman class, said John Barnhill, assistant vice president for academic affairs at Florida State University. He said he expects pushback from parents whose children go to well-to-do high schools as well as guidance counselors there.
“If I am going to make room for more of the [poor and minority] students we want to admit and I have a finite number of spaces, then someone has to suffer and that will be privileged kids on the bubble,” he said.
I wonder how this will affect whites’ perception of the competence of black and hispanic college graduates.