The Collegian
Monday, October 26, 2020


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Letter: Response to SAT score discussion

Dear Collegian,

I am writing to clarify and add to the discussion being had between Chris Repas and Vice President for Enrollment Management Nanci Tessier.

Anyone who has spent time on campus knows that Richmond has the facilities and rigor to back up the talk of it as a top-tier liberal arts college. Anyone who's read U.S. News, Newsweek or the Princeton Review website knows that has a lot going for it. However, all of these numbers are purely quantitative attempts to define something that is purely qualitative.

The quality of Richmond's educational experience is what's at issue and making that known to prospective students is no easy task. Still, that's the job tasked by a large portion of our university's administration, who've proven they are up for the challenge.

Chris Repas raises a serious concern about Richmond's selectivity and ability to compete with peer institutions for those top students. Besides the top twenty overlap list, which truly proves nothing as to Richmond's competitiveness until you look at a comparison of yield rates, our perceived value in the eyes of prospective students and employers does not have much to stand on in the numbers and ranking categories. Richmond has held unimpressively firm at the mid-30s for liberal arts colleges for several years, and the acceptance rate increased for the class of 2013.

Vice President Nanci Tessier and Chris Repas both make valid points about Richmond's admissions standards and the quality of incoming students. I think one point that Tessier misses in Repas's critique is that yes, even if we are still nominally competing with schools on the overlap list like Duke & Dartmouth, we are competing only in the sense that we are a safety or back up school (for those who are waitlisted or can't afford Vandy or Gtown), not a first choice, as evidenced in part by SAT scores.

One of UR's greatest strengths is its endowment and ability to give out financial aid that many of these schools do not. While that aspect should not change, the prioritization of Richmond's recruiting strategies should be re-examined in this light. The acceptance rate is still significantly higher than other private universities of our size and/or quality.

Lowering the admissions rate is one of the surest ways to increase so-called prestige as measured by the rankings and therefore increase notability and name-recognition then leading to even more applicants and greater selectivity, a wonderfully regressive model perfected by W&L and the Ivys on that list.

So Richmond must make a decision. Which is more important: maintaining the holistic approach to measuring quality when selecting our future scholars or to keep playing the rankings game? Tessier seems to argue for the former, so why not disavow the national rankings scheme and go confidently and wholeheartedly into embracing a methodology that focuses on attracting and retaining students who will de facto contribute positively to Richmond's reputation and academic community?

The university asks students to be bold and take risks for its sake. Won't it be willing to do the same for us (especially when it has a much better likelihood of success)?

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