Do colleges act as escalators of upward mobility, or as perpetuators of elite advantage? This question lies at the heart of the current debate over college admissions, especially at highly selective colleges. Such colleges have a double-edged effect on inequality and mobility. On the one hand, their students come predominantly from more privileged backgrounds; on the other, they can potentially provide upward mobility opportunities for those from middle-class and lower socioeconomic backgrounds.
The debate about college admissions has come to the forefront with the Supreme Court’s recent decision to end race-based affirmative action, which has placed the goal of fairer college admissions firmly on the policy agenda. But what exactly does fairness look like, and how would fairer admissions impact our society?
On July 26, Governance Studies in the Brookings Institution hosted a webinar on college admissions reform. This event focused on new research from Raj Chetty, David Deming, and John Friedman of Opportunity Insights that leverages big data on college admissions and outcomes to identify policy changes in higher education that could increase the socioeconomic diversity of America’s leaders and increase upward mobility in the United States.
Following a presentation from the Opportunity Insights team, panelists discussed the implications of this new research and broader questions of college admissions reform.