The Secret College Advantage: Money Talks

Last Updated Sep 23, 2011 1:19 AM EDT

Wonder what colleges are looking for when they are slogging through their annual avalanche of applications?

A growing number of private and public colleges and universities are looking for teenagers whose parents are R-I-C-H.

In some cases, these rich kids don't have to be as smart and accomplished as other applicants if their moms and dads can write the big checks.

That's one of the findings of an annual report by Inside Higher Ed, an online trade publication that surveyed 462 senior admission officials at schools across the country.

Private colleges and universities are leading the charge to accept more wealthy college applicants. In the survey, here was the breakdown of the percent of schools paying more to an applicant's ability to pay:

School % of school paying more attention to ability to pay
  • Public doctoral 13.0%
  • Public master's 12.2%
  • Public baccalaureate 16.6%
  • Private doctoral 20.5%
  • Private master's 22.5%
  • Private baccalaureate 31.0%
According to Inside Higher Ed, some schools are so eager to attract students who can pay full price that they admit them despite lower grades and test scores.

The interest in full-pay students is so strong that 10 percent of four-year colleges report that the full-pay students they are admitting have lower grades and test scores than do other admitted applicants.
Schools aren't just waiting for wealthy students to discover them. More than a third of private and public, four-year schools say they have focused more attention on recruiting full-pay students.

The drive to attract rich students was most pronounced among public doctoral universities. Fifty one percent of the state schools said their top focus was full-pay students. State schools are particularly looking for wealthy nonresidents, who can pay, in some cases, $40,000 or more a year to help make up revenue shortfalls from dwindling state government support.

Bottom Line:

The students who need the least amount of help getting into colleges and paying for them are benefiting the most. It's not fair, but I don't see how this trend is going to change.

Lynn O'Shaughnessy is author of The College Solution, an Amazon bestseller, and Shrinking the Cost of College workbook. She also writes her own college blog at The College Solution.

Read More on The College Solution:

How Rich Kids Get College Aid
Where Professors Send Their Children to College
25 Private Colleges With the Best Graduation Rates

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