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The Price of Admission: How America's Ruling Class Buys Its Way Into Elite Colleges--And Who Gets Left Outside the Gatesby Daniel Golden
Synopses & Reviews
Every spring thousands of middle-class and lower-income high-school seniors learn that they have been rejected by America's most exclusive colleges. What they may never learn is how many candidates like themselves have been passed over in favor of wealthy white students with lesser credentials — children of alumni, big donors, or celebrities.
In this explosive book, the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Daniel Golden argues that America, the so-called land of opportunity, is rapidly becoming an aristocracy in which America's richest families receive special access to elite higher education — enabling them to give their children even more of a head start. Based on two years of investigative reporting and hundreds of interviews with students, parents, school administrators, and admissions personnel — some of whom risked their jobs to speak to the author — The Price of Admission exposes the corrupt admissions practices that favor the wealthy, the powerful, and the famous.
In The Price of Admission, Golden names names, along with grades and test scores. He reveals how the sons of former vice president Al Gore, one-time Hollywood power broker Michael Ovitz, and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist leapt ahead of more deserving applicants at Harvard, Brown, and Princeton. He explores favoritism at the Ivy Leagues, Duke, the University of Virginia, and Notre Dame, among other institutions. He reveals that colleges hold Asian American students to a higher standard than whites; comply with Title IX by giving scholarships to rich women in "patrician sports" like horseback riding, squash, and crew; and repay congressmen for favors by admitting their children. He also reveals that Harvard maintains a "Z-list" for well-connected but underqualified students, who are quietly admitted on the condition that they wait a year to enroll.
The Price of Admission explodes the myth of an American meritocracy — the belief that no matter what your background, if you are smart and diligent enough, you will have access to the nation's most elite universities. It is must reading not only for parents and students with a personal stake in college admissions, but also for those disturbed by the growing divide between ordinary and privileged Americans.
"A heavy-hitting, name-naming exposé by Wall Street Journal deputy bureau chief Golden concludes that Ivy League admissions offices do not practice meritocracy. Instead, top-drawer schools reward donor-happy alums and the 'legacy establishment,' which Golden defines as 'elites mastering the art of perpetuating themselves.' Moreover, the 'preference of privilege' enables wealthy candidates to nose out more deserving working- and middle-class students, especially new immigrants and Asian-Americans. Golden backs his assertions with examples comparing the academic records of entering students: e.g., Al Gore's son was admitted to Harvard despite his shabby record, although a better prepared Asian-American was rejected at all Ivy Leagues because he was 'unhooked' (in admission parlance, not well connected or moneyed). Asian-Americans, notes Golden, are the 'new Jews,' for whom a higher bar is set. Golden tracks shameful admissions policies at Duke, where the enrollment of privileged but underqualified applicants has helped elevate the school's endowment ranking from 25th in 1980 to 16th in 2005; Brown is skewered for courting the offspring of entertainment industry notables. Golden suggests reasonable, workable tactics for resurrecting the antilegacy campaign in Congress (led by Senator Kennedy) and devotes a laudatory chapter to the equitable admissions practices at Caltech, Berea College (Kentucky) and Cooper Union (New York City). (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"I didn't want to believe that rich families and celebrities buy places for their children in America's best colleges. But Daniel Golden's evidence is overwhelming. This book should be read by everyone who cares about preserving higher education as a route for developing talent, not rewarding privilege." Diane Ravitch, research professor of education, New York University, and author of Left Back
"If you did not attend or do not teach at a prestigious university, do not play polo well enough to pass it on, and do not have a cool million lying around to buy a place in the freshman class, your child might not make it into the school he or she deserves to attend. Daniel Golden explains why in this passionately written and bitingly acute book." Alan Wolfe, professor of political science, Boston College, and author of One Nation, After All
"Daniel Golden makes a trenchant and convincing case that admission to America's elite universities has too often turned into a system for reinforcing wealth and privilege, rather than opening new opportunities. He names names — and test scores, and family donation levels. In the wake of this book, the university establishment has some explaining to do." James Fallows, national correspondent, The Atlantic Monthly, and author of Blind into Baghdad
"Anyone who believes that affirmative action for minority students is the big threat to college admissions by merit should confront Golden's evidence that most elite colleges show much larger preferences for the privileged and the connected. I hope the book helps move colleges toward more equitable practices." Gary Orfield, professor of education and social policy, Harvard Graduate School of Education
"Daniel Golden pulls back the curtain on the world of selective college admissions, where the already privileged are the truly preferred. With vigorous prose and artful anecdotes, Golden tells a chilling story of double standards and double crossings. He reminds us that when elite college admissions go to the highest bidders, we all pay the price." Lani Guinier, Bennett Boskey Professor, Harvard Law School, and author of Lift Every Voice
"A delicious account of gross inequities in high places...This book is, in many ways, a tabloid tale..." New York Times
"While the fact that the rich and famous are treated differently is hardly news, this report's abundance of juicy stories of outrageous favoritism makes for an absorbing read." Kirkus Reviews
"Deserves to become a classic." The Economist
Building on his Pulitzer Prize-winning Wall Street Journal series, Golden exposes the corrupt admissions practices at America's most elite colleges that favor the children of the rich and powerful.
In this explosive book, the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Golden argues that America, the so-called land of opportunity, is rapidly becoming an aristocracy in which its richest families receive special access to elite higher education — enabling them to give their children even more of a head start.
About the Author
Daniel Golden is Deputy Bureau Chief at the Boston bureau of the Wall Street Journal, where he has covered education since 1999. Previously, he was a reporter at the Boston Globe. The recipient of numerous journalistic honors and awards, including the Pulitzer Prize and the George Polk Award, he holds a B.A. from Harvard College. He lives with his wife and children in Belmont, Massachusetts.
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