Monday, March 26, 2007

Ceteris paribus 

A study by two faculty at Princeton, reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education today (subscriber's link) says legacy students -- the children of alumni who are admitted to their parent's school but lack the grades to have been admitted otherwise -- drop out more often and have lower GPAs than students who attend such schools under those conditions due to athletic scholarships or affirmative action considerations.
"We do not expect these findings to settle the debate on affirmative action," Mr. Massey and Ms. Mooney wrote. "We do hope, however, that they enable readers to place the issue of minority affirmative action in a broader context, viewing it as just one of several programs to target a subgroup of students affirmatively."
Well that is true, but the comparison is incomplete. Athletes have academic tutors hired by the athletic program to keep players eligible. There are numerous womens' centers, minority student centers, GLBT services, etc., to assist students admitted that way as well. But could you imagine someone setting up the "Children of Alumni Academic Learning Center"?? Of course not.

If you are going to draw that parallel, you must hold everything else constant. I do not see evidence that this has happened here.