Red Admissions Tape Finally Gets a Trim

NATIONAL NEWS — The transition from high school to college is almost wholly defined by its red tape — and those who wish to don the all-important university sweatshirt need only, in the end, to be equipped with the smarts (or guidance) to find their way through a dizzying series of arbitrary bureaucratic hoops. Standardized tests have more to do with memorization of specific question-and-answer types than a general academic ability; high-school education paths are more often shaped around university “a-g” college-prep requirements and Advanced Placement opportunities than personal interest; scholarship applications are more a test of endurance, technical-jargon deciphering skills and capacity to keep from strangling your head-scratching parental assistant — most likely even more lost than you are, and for hours on end — than a gauge of good old-fashioned financial need.

Apparently the entire bureaucracy behind this fundamentally ridiculous system stood in front of some giant mirror of truth under harsh fluorescents and finally understood what nitpicky assholes they all looked like. Seemingly at once, every last stiff restriction is being proposed a thoughtful softening in what seems like a grand attempt to spread the love, theoretically widening the pool of eligibles to include all those with the smarts to succeed in higher education but without the same resources to push them through the hoops.

It’s almost too good to be true — a rainbow-sailed ship from the land of everything good. The SAT has been evaluated by the National Association for College Admission Counseling as a faulty measure of academic potential and as favoring those with the resources to prepare for it, prompting many universities (including Harvard) to consider cutting it from the admission process. Similarly, the UC Board of Regents is discussing the complete obliteration of SAT II subject tests from the laundry list of UC application requirements, along with opening a new margin of consideration for those missing a couple “a-g” requirements and a new GPA lenience for those without honors weight to boost their numbers. And lastly, once students have been accepted, U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings has proposed a shrinking of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid from 100 questions to 26, a change that would — according to surveys citing length and complexity as the key deterrences to completing the paperwork — give a significant amount of additional low-income students the chance to be considered.

But if these dreams were actually brought to life — and, for more red tape, talks and proposals are always a long road from their actual implementation — there would be nowhere near sufficient room for them to reach the proportions they propose. Less hoops will result in the desired larger pool of applicants, more of whom will be eligible for financial aid, widening an already unmanageable dream-to-budget gap through which the entire operation would collapse. Because unless the giant new chunk of considerees is rejected entirely — essentially voiding all purpose for the admission-regulation bending — a first essential change would need to occur from above, an Earth-shattering shift in federal and national funding priority.

Of course, asking for war/oil money to be shifted to California education is almost laughable at this point. Well, who knows — not to jinx it, but there is a certain election approaching that could make all the difference, and hell, if a new generation of college-goers is able to entirely avoid the sterile prisons that are the SAT sittings, maybe anything is possible.