Jan 21, 2020 • 19M

Bring in the quants: the cold calculus of college admissions

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Nick Barr
A podcast in which we discuss things that interest me, your host, Nick Barr!
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Last time we picked on elite universities but left open whether their business model was significantly different from or worse than other private schools. Continuing to pull from Paul Tough’s The Years that Matter Most, in this episode we do a deep dive into Trinity’s admissions process through the eyes of its enrollment manager, Angel Pérez.

Tough and Pérez shed light on the difficult math behind admissions. Who deserves a scholarship, and why? How do you ensure you hit your revenue goals? How do you know which 20% of students will accept their offer, and protect yourself against the 80% who won’t? How do you maintain favorable vanity metrics like low acceptance rates?

Ultimately, econometric modeling instructs Trinity to say no to many exceptional lower-income kids. And to say yes – and even offer financial aid – to less exceptional, higher-income kids. But this situation seems less grim than the one at Ivy League schools. Trinity needs to generate revenue from tuition, and therefore relies on people who can pay tuition. In contrast, Harvard needs to generate revenue from charitable giving, and therefore relies on the ultra-wealthy.