The Harvard degree as a ‘golden ticket’: Why admissions policies are crucial

October 31, 2018

Harvard‘s admission process is on trial in a Boston-area courtroom, with the Ivy League college defending itself from allegations it discriminates against Asian Americans, based on “personal qualities.”

If the charges are proven, the university—which continues to be ranked number one in the nation—would be guilty not only of affecting the college experience of Asian-American applicants; but of downgrading their financial futures, based on the underlying fact that a Harvard degree remains one of the most valuable in the country, CBS News reports.

A decade after graduation, Harvard grads earn median annual pay of $129,000, or 58% more than the $81,600 in median annual pay earned by non-Ivy League college graduates, according to data provided to CBS MoneyWatch by PayScale, the network news outlet said.

Even among Ivy League schools, Harvard edges out the competition: graduates of all Ivy League colleges earn $124,600 after a decade in the workforce, PayScale found.

On top of higher pay, Harvard graduates receive access to a network of famous and successful alumni including Supreme Court Justice John Roberts, former Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, actress Natalie Portman and drop-outs such as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

It’s no wonder that a Harvard degree is considered a “golden ticket” to a better future by many students and their parents. At the same time, CBS said, it’s harder than ever to gain entry to an Ivy League school, with admissions rates for Harvard and its competitors dropping to all-time lows.

Last year, almost 43,000 students applied to Harvard—but only 5% received an acceptance letter, one of the lowest admittance rates in the country.

And, as competition for acceptance by Harvard has grown stiffer, its admissions practices have come under scrutiny. In 2014, an anti-affirmative action group called Students for Fair Admissions sued Harvard, alleging the college’s admissions policies discriminate against Asian-American students.

On its website, the group says, “There is a line between ‘competitive’ admissions and just flat out ‘unconstitutional’ ones. Help us draw that line!”

Asian-Americans had an average acceptance rate to the school of 8.1% from 1995 to 2013according to an October 19 story by the Harvard Crimson, which cites data presented at the Harvard admissions trial now underway in a Boston courtroom.

That’s the smallest rate of any racial group, with Hispanic-Americans and African-Americans experiencing an acceptance rate of 10.6% and 13.2%, respectively. Whites have an 11.1% acceptance rate.

Asian-Americans are allegedly held to “a far higher standard than other students,” the Students for Fair Admissions claim in their lawsuit, CBS News said. The complaint cites a Harvard Crimson survey of 2017 freshman, which asked them their SAT scores. The results found East Asians and Indians scored above the survey’s median SAT result of 2237, while other minorities scored below the survey’s median.

“Harvard requires much more of its Asian-American applicants than it requires of other races and ethnicities,” the complaint alleges.

However, the network news outlet reports, there are two group of students that appear to have a remarkably easier acceptance rate: children of Harvard graduates and children of large donors. In evidence presented during the trial, internal Harvard emails appear to signal the college’s preference for applicants with well-heeled parents—contributing to the notion of “the rich getting richer,” by which many of the Ivy League schools and future employers abide.

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