Friday, October 2, 2009

“Common or Elitist” Article Creates A Stir… Allow Me To Clarify A Couple Items

October 2, 2009 - By way of background, Inside Higher Ed recently ran an article titled “Common or Elitist” that discussed concerns about college access as it relates to the application process itself and several of the providers that offer college application solutions. Most notably, the article took focus on the Common Application and challenged the notion that it was for the “common” student, applying to “common” colleges. And as is the joy of working in a marketplace of passionate people that are dedicated to helping students succeed, a very passionate debate has ensued as a result of this article.

I think this ensuing debate is fantastic!… not just because I love a good discussion, but because the discussion shines a light on the fact that, currently, EVERY student does not have access to the tools and resources necessary to maximize their education and career opportunities. Instead, many of the streamlining technologies and “process” components are only available to a subset of the student and/or college population- something that ConnectEDU is dedicated to resolving!

I would also like to clarify some of the implications that the article punched up. Specifically, I would like to clarify the context in which the topic of common vs. elitism was raised as it relates to my comments in the article. Let me start by saying that I agree with those that read the article and drew the conclusion that I was advocating that there shouldn’t be any standards in the admissions process; it certainly reads that way. However, that is not the context in which I made my comments. My comment was the following –

“That because the Common Application restricts its member institutions to only those that conduct a ‘360 Degree Evaluation’ they exclude many institutions that are historically known for their dedication to the college access student population. This would include community colleges as well as open admission institutions. As a result we do not believe that the Common Application meets the needs of most students. If that is what it means to be elitist, then, perhaps that is an accurate conclusion.”

I want to clearly state that I am a firm believer in the need for admissions requirements and standards in the admissions process. But I am also a fervent believer that common solutions must meet the needs of the common student. And the common student in the college process is not applying to institutions that require 360 degree applicant evaluations. That said, a common solution must also meet the needs of these 360 degree evaluation institutions as well as those institutions that have a more “open” college admissions requirements. In fact, this is the exact reason that we launched SuperAPP.

However, there are some comments to the article that appear to be very misleading or, at a minimum, are very confusing to me. In particular, those referencing that a 501c3 isn’t focused on market share. This is in stark contrast to our efforts to partner with a number of 501c3’s in the education space, including the Common Application.

For the past two years, ConnectEDU has made a concerted effort to partner with the Common Application to streamline and facilitate the college application process for our students that are applying to Common Application institutions. Each year we have been “played” down a path in an effort that the cynic in me believes was designed to keep us out of the college application process. Most recently, we were told by the Executive Director of the Common Application that they would not work with us unless we refused to work with any other college application providers and entered into an exclusive agreement with the Common Application.

To us, this does not at all feel like a 501c3 that is focused on making the college application process as streamlined as possible and as simple as possible for EVERY student. Instead, this is much more consistent with an organization that is solely focused on maintaining and/or dominating market share. The irony of which is it is us that has said “no” to this behavior… that we were willing to work with and integrate into whatever college application solution the colleges have selected as being the best option for them. Our logic is that this is the best way to provide a streamlined process to as many students, counselors and colleges as possible. Again, this is the exact reason that we have launched SuperAPP. We will work with any and all application providers, but we will not be exclusive to any single provider in their effort to protect their market share. Nor will we assist an individual vendor accumulate more market share. For us, this is about servicing the student, not the volume or transaction revenue generated by any given application provider… even the Common Application.

We continue to welcome the opportunity to partner with any and all application providers; including the Common Application so long as the focus is on providing more access to more students, reducing costs and driving efficiency. Currently, colleges using our SuperAPP platform CAN receive the Common Application as well as any of the applications that they have designed with any of the other major application providers in the marketplace. As a result, we believe SuperAPP is a true “democratizer” of access.

I am very interested in hearing from those that want to join us in our effort to drive college access for ALL students as well as access to students for ALL colleges. I welcome your thoughts and comments via Blogger or via Twitter (you can follow me at CraigPowellCDU).

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