Jerome A. Lucido explores this question in a commentary piece for The Chronicle this week. Mr. Lucido, executive director of the Center for Enrollment Research, Policy, and Practice at the University of Southern California, writes that “students and institutions alike, it seems, are branding themselves in pursuit of positioning.” Positioning in the marketplace, that is, and positioning in the game of life; in each, prestige and revenue often matter.
So what? Mr. Lucido sums up the implications like this: “What we see now is that marketplace competition has escalated to the point at which it threatens to become the mission rather than to serve the mission.”
Mr. Lucido’s been called an idealist, but he understands the pressures enrollment officials carry with them each day. He is the former vice provost for enrollment policy and management at Southern Cal, and previously oversaw undergraduate admissions at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Although bottom-line goals are crucial, he believes, colleges can do more to align those goals with their educational values.
To that end, Mr. Lucido proposes “new numbers,” or alternative measurements for competition among colleges. How many first-generation and low-income students, for instance, have graduated from a particular institution? What skills have graduates learned, what habits of mind have they gained, and how, exactly, have they benefited from the programs colleges promote in their marketing materials? Such questions, Mr. Lucido believes, must define the future of college admissions.
At the very least, they will inform the discussions at an upcoming forum in Los Angeles, “The Case for Change in College Admissions,” sponsored by Mr. Lucido’s center and the Education Conservancy. Starting next Wednesday, the event will bring together many of the nation’s leading enrollment experts for a series of talks about what needs fixing within college admissions.
One thing on Mr. Lucido’s list: professional development. “We lose a lot of people in admissions—it’s hard work,” he says. “You have to go out and promote your institution in an increasing diversity of ways. Then you’re in your hotel room at night, reading files online, and if you don’t have the goals and values of the profession in mind, it’s hard to stick with it. I believe we can do a better job of growing the members the profession.”