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March 08, 2010 7:27 PM Too Exclusive?

By Daniel Luzer

Dade.jpg

Should American colleges be less selective? Apparently Eduardo Padron, president of Miami Dade College, one of America’s largest colleges, thinks so. According to an article by Kathryn Masterson at Inside Higher Ed:

Mr. Padron, who leads the country’s largest community college, urged the leaders of both private and public institutions to promote access over what he called a “disturbing trend of increased selectivity.” Education is the key to the nation’s recovery, he said, and the country will be less stable if more students don’t go on to college.
“We will see a class system like no other, with the fortunate few becoming world citizens, well connected as never before to the economic, educational, and cultural opportunities, while those for whom the door to education closes will be excluded as never before,” Mr. Padron, an economist by training, said during the meeting’s opening keynote address….

Padron might have a point but his recommendation seems a little vague. Do colleges ever become less selective on purpose?

American colleges have certainly become dramatically more selective. Princeton University, for instance, admitted 79 percent of its applicants in 1930. In 2009 the school admitted 9.8 percent of undergraduate applicants.

But colleges got more selective largely for demographic reasons. The high birth rate in the 1990s brought many more high school students to admission departments than ever before. There were, quite simply, more students to reject. Any college would take advantage of an opportunity like that.

Any college including, well, Miami Dade. When the school opened in 1960 as Dade County Junior College it was open admissions. Now Miami Dade boasts several programs with selective admissions, including its honors program and its curriculum in allied health.

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer