More than eleven months after Yale College changed its early admissions policy from binding early decision to nonbinding early action, Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., may propose legislation in the coming weeks to reduce federal support for colleges that employ early decision policies.
The proposal would be part of Congress’ reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, an action planned for 2004. The proposal may also advocate limiting federal funding for universities in which the minority graduation rate is 10 percentage points lower than the overall rate.
Kennedy’s office declined to comment on whether the proposal would actually be submitted to Congress.
The National Association for College Admission Counseling, or NACAC, has already expressed its opposition to the idea. NACAC Executive Director Joyce Smith wrote a letter to Kennedy Aug. 20 urging him not to include the legislation.
“While our association members have legitimate and well-articulated concerns about the effects of early decision and early admission in general on students, they and NACAC are fundamentally opposed to a federal mandate banning early decision,” Smith said in the letter.
NACAC also cosigned a similar letter to Kennedy from the American Council on Education.
This year, 43 percent of Yale’s freshman class was filled through early decision applications. Under Yale President Richard Levin’s guidance, Yale changed from binding early decision to nonbinding early action last November, beginning with the class of 2008.
Yale currently receives federal funding in the form of research grants, as well as some federal financial aid and federally subsidized loans.
“The penalty is pertinent to anybody and everybody,” Yale Dean of Admissions Richard Shaw said.
Early admission policies have long been an issue of national controversy. Some critics said they believe these policies are unfair to poor applicants and minorities who may not be aware of the early application option or may not be able to apply early because of concerns about financial aid.
NACAC Public Policy Director David Hawkins said although many of the association’s members do not favor early decision, they would still be opposed to the government’s intervening in NACAC’s policies.
Shaw also said he is wary of the implicit consequences of such a bill.
“I’m somewhat concerned about the precedent it might set in terms of the involvement of government in these sorts of things,” Shaw said.
Hawkins said NACAC is experienced with such matters, especially after engaging in a long battle about the use of affirmative action in admissions policy.
“We see early decision as a similar issue,” Hawkins said. “The government is trying to regulate an essential piece of the college and university mission, which is to determine their own admissions policy.”
Brad MacGowan, president-elect of the NACAC-affiliated New England Association for College Admission Counseling, said he thinks of the possible proposal as motivation for colleges and universities to reform their policies themselves.
“I’m hoping that this will be a wake-up call to the colleges that they have their eye on us,” MacGowan said. “I’m hoping that we can [reach] the level that we can take care of it ourselves — maybe we can self-regulate here.”