Phi Beta Cons

Is ‘Undermatching’ a Problem?

When a student enrolls at a college that is regarded as less prestigious (and thus educationally inferior) than another, more prestigious institution he or she could have chosen, that is “undermatching.” Is it a problem? Some say so, but I fail to see much of a case that it is, and explain why in my latest SeeThru.Edu post.

I agree that there is a problem when students are overmatched — that is to say, lured to enroll in a school where the academic work is too hard, which happens a lot with affirmative action. There could, similarly be undermatching in the sense that the academic requirements are insufficiently challenging for bright and motivated students. In fact, that probably happens rather often, since the environment at many institutions is less than optimal for such students. But that isn’t what the undermatch people are worried about. One reason why we have such a serious matching problem in higher education is that going to college is today a bundle purchase. 

George Leef is the director of research for the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

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