University Diaries provides some selections from an unimpressive article which quotes Economics Professor Gordon Winston.

[An] Atlantic article [about college admissions] examines how enrollment managers “have changed financial aid — from a tool to help low-income students into a strategic weapon to entice wealthy and high-scoring students.” Oregon State’s head of enrollment management is quoted as recommending that attitude in relation to competing institutions: “I’m going to go out there and try to eat their lunch. I’m going to try to kick their ass.”

Not an elegant statement, perhaps, but an acceptable one if you believe that competition makes the world a better place. In this case, however, it makes the world all the more inequitable. “It’s a brilliantly analytical process of screwing the poor kids,” Gordon Winston, a Williams College economist, is quoted as saying.

Yeah, yeah. Back in the days before enrollment management, back when all the nice colleges colluded, you can be sure that professors like Winston were looking out for the poor kids. They were helping them. They were doing those poor kids a favor by ensuring that they graduated from Williams with tens of thousands of dollars in debt.

Now, in the nasty world of “competition,” with students comparing different financial aid offers, that damn free market has trapped kids from families earning less than $40,000 per year into graduating from Williams with zero debt. Back when Winston was Provost, those poor kids weren’t screwed. Williams was doing them a favor by saddling them with so much debt.

Yeah. That’s the ticket.

Yes, I realize that this is a little unfair to Winston. It wasn’t his fault, per se, that poor kids were screwed by Williams 20 years ago while they go for free today. And what goes on at Williams is not representative of most of higher education. And, whenever a system changes, there are winners and losers.

But, big picture, freedom and competition work. More applicants (especially poor applicants, especially poor, smart applicants) are better off today than they were 20 years ago. This is even more true for poor (and not so poor), smart, black applicants. Me, I think that this is a good thing.

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