Whatever happened to summer? I don’t mean this particular summer, although I can’t figure out what happened to June and July. I’m talking about summer as concept.
Recently I talked to several colleagues who have been in the profession for a long time about how the circadian rhythms of our jobs have changed over the course of our careers. A close friend who worked with me during my admissions days and is now a legendary Dean remembers us having time to saunter downtown each summer day to get ice cream and spending some afternoons in the Dean of Students office working on what was billed as the world’s biggest crossword puzzle.
Summer used to be down time, time to catch up on a few projects and prepare for the fall. No more. Any semblance of leisure disappeared long ago in admissions offices.
The change has been slower on the secondary side of the desk. “Are you a 12-month employee?” is a common question among school counselors, but I can’t fathom how a college counseling office in the 21st century shuts down for most of the summer. Summer is thankfully still a little more relaxed than the regular school year, but that gap closes every summer. I am in the office most days, and there is never any shortage of things to do.
So why should the blogosphere be any different? Since starting this blog, my habit has been to shut down for a couple of months each summer, assuming that readership drops off and that there are likely to be few issues bubbling up.
This summer has forced me to rethink that plan. I assumed that the world of ethical college admissions issues would be quiet once the Supreme Court Fisher v. Texas decision was released, but scarcely a week went by this summer when there wasn’t some item in the news that either had been or could be a subject for an ECA post.
For those of you, then, who only work ten months, have been off the grid, or just haven’t been paying attention, several posts over the next week or so will catch you up on what’s been happening while we were away.
ITEM—The Coalition has launched!
After a year of anticipation and vigorous discussion, the new application platform for the Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success is now up and running—sort of. Only three Coalition members—Vanderbilt, Carleton, and Indiana—have their applications available for students to access, and of the three universities that had announced exclusive use of the Coalition application for the coming year only one remains (University of Florida). Slightly more than half of the 90+ Coalition members will use the application in its inaugural year, a level of endorsement and support resembling enthusiasm among the Republican Party establishment for Donald Trump.
(By the way, you heard it here first: if Trump doesn’t win the election, he’ll return to television with a new sitcom, a spinoff from the short-lived series “$#*! My Dad Says.” It will be called “$#*! Our Presidential Nominee Says.” Joanie Loves Chachi star/convention speaker Scott Baio will play Trump’s sidekick/apprentice.)
I wrote about the Coalition last fall, trying not to join the Greek chorus portraying it as the college admissions equivalent of ISIS. The Coalition leadership includes both schools and admission deans that I respect, but information has been slow to surface and hard to find. No one is against access or affordability or success, but it has been far from clear that the new application platform will make a dent in any of those.
There has always been in the Coalition’s backstory an element of high school romance gone sour. The Coalition arose from dissatisfaction with the Common Application’s implementation of new technology that didn’t work as well as advertised or hoped. Once the founding member schools of the Coalition saw Common App without its makeup, they concluded they no longer wanted to date exclusively. The Coalition began flirting with a dark brooding antihero, CollegeNet, which just happened to be recovering from a bad breakup, its ex being none other than the Common Application. Somewhere in all of this is a remake of West Side Story or The OC or Joanie Loves Chachi.
I recently tried to create a student profile so I could get a sense of what the Coalition Application looks like, and I found the process frustrating. A student doesn’t complete the application in the traditional sense but rather completes his or her profile, and the application will apparently be auto-filled from the profile.
Completing the profile, in short, is a pain in the butt. The profile requires a student to list all courses and grades completed in high school. Does that suggest that some Coalition members are going to ask students to self-report grades rather than have schools send transcripts?
If a student has a Social Security number, it must be entered or the profile is incomplete. Why? “Your Social Security number is essential in awarding federal financial aid and also helps us make sure that your record is accurately maintained.”
I find that statement curious. A Social Security number is certainly essential for federal financial aid, but unless I’m missing something the Coalition application has nothing to do with federal financial aid, so why mention it? My initial reaction was that it is illegal to require a Social Security number, but apparently private organizations can ask. If the real reason for wanting a student’s Social Security number is for record-keeping and the student provides it voluntarily, fine, but if mentioning federal financial aid leads a student to share the Social Security number out of fear of losing aid, that’s deceptive, coercive, and an invasion of privacy.
There is one other thing about the Coalition Application that is odd. When I originally began filling out the profile there were a series of discipline-related questions for the applicant to complete. According to a post on the ACCIS e-list, concern about the discipline questions was a factor in the University of Washington backing away from using the Coalition App as its sole application (it’s delaying use of the Coalition App for a year). When I went back into my profile earlier this week, the discipline questions are nowhere to be found. Is removing part of a student’s completed profile a reportable disciplinary offense?
The Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success is clearly a work in progress. I like its aspirations, but the rollout has been underwhelming, feeling rushed and not carefully thought through.
Early next week we’ll publish another post with other summer developments.