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Expand Selective Schools

Harvard has an endowment of $37b, an undergraduate class size of ~1700, and an acceptance rate of around 5%. Yale’s endowment is $27b, while it has an undergraduate class size of ~1500 and an acceptance rate of under 7%. Stuyvesant, a top NYC public school, has a class size only slightly over 3200, while there are over 1.1m students in the public school system. Phillips Exeter Academy, a high school, has an endowment of over $1 million per student.  

These schools are not for everyone and we have bigger problems to address that are more relevant for most Americans. However, these schools reflect a false scarcity in our elite education system – instead of expanding access and opportunities, many schools remain small and selective because the prestige of turning many people down helps them maintain cachet and rankings. This has in turn warped parent and student behavior as many see getting their kids into various schools as a cutthroat competition, driving extreme, unhealthy, unethical, and even illegal behaviors. It is deranging our culture.

Many highly selective schools have the resources to expand their class sizes, but they currently don’t have an incentive to do so. Their rankings pressures actually reward them for rejecting many applicants. In order to ensure that more students are able to take advantage of these educational resources, it’s necessary to provide incentives for these schools to expand, both in size and, in the case of colleges, geographically.

The geographic benefits would extend past just the increase in capacity. By establishing campuses in different parts of the region or country, these schools would:

    • Expand the pool of people who would attend;
    • Provide a cheaper cost of living on certain campuses, making it easier to afford these educational opportunities;
    • Create alumni networks nearby, thus attracting talent to new areas of the country; and
    • Afford students the opportunity to “study abroad” at home, and take classes at different campuses to get exposed to different areas of the country.

Artificial scarcity has been created at these highly selective academic resources in the name of institutional prestige. It’s time instead to create opportunities for more American students.

Acceptance rates for selective high schools and colleges have plummeted over the past number of years as competition and interest have picked up. An obvious response: create new schools and expand existing ones. Right now schools get rewarded for turning many applicants away. That’s the opposite of what we need.  Instead of rewarding schools for being selective, we should increase the number of spots available for students.

Problems to be Solved

  • Highly selective schools are seeing skyrocketing application numbers, resulting in plummeting acceptance rates.
  • These schools are not expanding to larger class sizes and new areas despite having the resources to do so.
Guiding Principles:
  • Education
  • Equality
  • Increase the number of available seats at highly selective schools in order to better serve the public and match the demand for these seats

As President, I will…

  • Work with the DOE and Congress to encourage highly selective schools to expand their existing class sizes both through expanding facilities on their campuses and by opening new locations, especially in geographically diverse locations.
  • Encourage public, philanthropic, and private investment in new schools and education models (e.g. Kenzie Academy).
  • Ensure that rankings services (e.g., U.S. News & World Report) are not tied to the compensation of administrators and that evaluation criteria don’t discourage expansion (e.g., Educational Impact and Access instead of Selectivity).

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