The college admissions landscape is undergoing a dramatic shift. Following pressure from the United States Department of Justice, the National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC) has revised its ethical standards, eliminating some of the regulations meant to keep recruitment practices in check. A month later, with several key regulations on the college admissions process stripped away, the Kenyon admissions department must now consider what they will do moving forward.
The resolution—which passed on September 28 by a vote of 211 to 3—removed four provisions from the NACAC’s ethical guidelines. These provisions had banned certain practices within member colleges, such as attempts to recruit students who had committed themselves elsewhere and solicitation of transfer applications from students already enrolled at other schools. The Justice Department had previously ruled that these provisions were in violation of antitrust laws, as the provisions restricted competition between colleges.
President Sean Decatur explained these changes, which will impact admissions at Kenyon as well as the thousands of NACAC member schools across the country.
“Institutions that belong to NACAC—basically every selective college is a member of that organization—all agree to a certain set of ethical guidelines,” Decatur said. “That includes honoring binding early-admission choices of students. So if you got into Kenyon [via] early decision, other institutions recognize that you’ve made a commitment to come to Kenyon and they’re not going to try to recruit you.”
Under the new guidelines, colleges will be allowed to offer students who have committed to other schools special incentives, such as financial-aid packages, if they agree to switch. Colleges will also be allowed to offer special “premium” packages—potentially including better housing and first-pick class schedules—to students who apply under binding early decision agreements. One NACAC insider expressed worry that the lack of ethical regulation will create a “Wild West” atmosphere, in which colleges could try to poach students off one another after those students had thought their admissions process was complete.
Decatur does not expect much will change — at least not initially.
“No one wants to be the first institution that violates the long-standing informal agreements between [schools],” Decatur said. “But someone will be. And when that happens, it really opens the floodgates. Because no one wants to be the last institution to hold onto a set of guidelines that everyone else has let go of.”