Washington Monthly - September/October 2016 - 76

Sklarow says that the typical cost of hiring a consultant to help with college admission is about $4,500, spread out over three years, beginning in a student's sophomore year. While some consultants charge a flat fee, others charge an hourly rate, which averages $160 nationally. In addition to the perceived complexities of applying to college, the shortage of public school counselors is what's driving demand for private admissions consultants. "There's an increased need for counseling and a decrease of availability," says Sklarow. The average ratio of students to school counselors in public schools is now 491 to 1, according to the American School Counselor Association, up from 460 to 1 in 2012. According to a study by the nonprofit CLASP, high-poverty public high schools are twice as likely as other schools to have no counselor at all. Instructively, many private admissions consultants have gotten into the business because their jobs as high school guidance counselors were eliminated. The confusion caused by the congestion in the college admissions market, together with a shortage of guidance counselors and the emerging dance around "demonstrated interest," could exacerbate the problem of "under-matching," where high-quality lower-income candidates are channeled into less-selective schools, where their chances of graduating are lower and their lifetime earnings lower even if they do graduate. But there are growing risks for other stu- dents, as well, because there's no obvious endpoint for the escalation in applications. As long as students continue to apply to more and more schools, the noise in the market and its attendant uncertainties will increase. This, in turn, prompts yet more applications by students anxious to hedge their bets by casting a wider and wider net. It's a deepening, bottomless spiral. Unless the colleges choose to stop it. One way to do this, says Washington, D.C.-based educational consultant Shelley Levine, is for colleges to stop marketing to students just to pump up their application numbers and "selectivity." For one thing, this system is unfair to students. "You wouldn't believe the students who come into our office saying they've received letters from Yale and Harvard and Princeton and Washington University saying they're just the kind of candidate the school is looking for," she says. "I say stop giving false hope." But the only way for this to happen is for colleges to abandon their obeisance to "selectivity" and other metrics that distort students' choices toward "prestige" and away from the more important consideration of fit. Given the losing battle that colleges seem to be engaged in over the question of yield, this is one place where what's best for students might be the right answer for colleges, too. Anne Kim is senior writer at the Washington Monthly. "Best bang for the buck" liberal arts college WASHINGTON MONTHLY __________________________________________________ Ranked among the 50 most affordable private colleges MONEY MAGAZINE __________________________________________________ Hands-on, personal and customized curriculum __________________________________________________ 24 NCAA Division III athletic teams __________________________________________________ Over 25 Graduate Degree and Certificate Programs for working professionals 76 September/October 2016 UNDERGRADUATE ADMISSIONS GRADUATE AND PROFESSIONAL STUDIES 800-638-5005 http://admissions.mcdaniel.edu 410-857-2516 www.mcdaniel.edu/graduate http://www.mcdaniel.edu/graduate http://admissions.mcdaniel.edu http://www.mcdaniel.edu/graduate

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Monthly - September/October 2016

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