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Kelly Rosinger

Research Findings

Institutional sieves: How elite colleges filter student applicants

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June 24, 2024

A large share of higher education media attention focuses on selective colleges and universities, from Congressional hearings featuring “Ivy-plus” university presidents to the “operation varsity blues” scandal. These institutions represent only a small subset of higher education, yet attention to them is well warranted. Enrollment at a high-status undergraduate institution is often a passport to lucrative careers or a prestigious graduate education.

Historians, sociologists and higher education scholars have called attention to the role of highly selective institutions as bastions of privilege. Two former presidents of such universities, William G. Bowen and Derek Bok, traced the flow of racially minoritized students through these institutions in their classic book The Shape of the River.

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