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Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

Debunking the Debunkers



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There’s a long article today in Inside Higher Ed about a new book on college admissions by William Bowen et al. (horrors). Plenty of grist for the PBC mill in both the article and the book.

Here’s what I posted at IHE:

“The new book argues that it has conclusive evidence to debunk mismatch theory. The authors used data from their database to compare black men with high school grade-point averages below 3.0 who enrolled in the most selective flagships and those who enrolled in less selective flagships and the least selective flagships. What the authors found was that these students — who mismatch theory would suggest would do better at less competitive institutions — actually are most likely to graduate at more competitive flagships. The graduation rate for this cohort of black males at the three selectivity levels of flagships is (starting from the most selective), 46 percent, 40 percent, and 38 percent. So these black males benefit significantly from being at the more competitive institutions.”

Now, I have not read the book, but the discussion in the article quoted above suggests that the book treats “black men with high school grade-point averages below 3.0” as fungible — that is, that the students meeting this description who go to the more selective schools are no more academically promising than those who go to the less and least selective schools. That’s very dubious: I would think that, ceteris paribus, the students who got into and chose to go to the more selective schools had something to suggest that they were more likely to succeed academically than those who did not go there.



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