When I read the March 21 issue of the Port Washington News, I felt I had to respond to C. Renga's letter, "Believes 'Great Majority' Locked Out of Elite Colleges." Acceptance to college has indeed become a fundamental issue for many high school students, especially in school districts of high caliber, such as Port Washington. Students and their parents spend enormous amounts of time, energy, and money on SAT prep courses, tutors, and the college selection process. However, it is my belief that the so-called "Great Majority" (if it exists) does not suffer undue hardship or discrimination in admission to college. Hence, I must disagree with Renga's argument.
Renga's first point is that foreign students are taking the place of "America's sons and daughters" in the best universities. First of all, the number of foreign students enrolled in even the most diverse university is a small fraction of the overall student population. Moreover, they add an important element of diversity: Would it really be desirable to homogenize our universities so that they were filled with a uniform population of blond, Abercrombie-clad frat boys?
Additionally, the foreign students that are accepted are extremely capable; it reflects well on our country that some of the best scholars from overseas are clamoring for admission to our schools. Many of these students stay in America and contribute greatly to our nation's achievements in various fields, and we all benefit from this. Without foreign students, the state of our engineering industry would be pitiful indeed. Renga disapproves of foreign students who "...stay here to compete for top job opportunities against American workers," but shutting out foreign students goes against the principles of diversity and immigration that our country is founded upon, and it is these same principles that have made the United States as successful as it is.
As to the contention that American taxpayers are shouldering the cost of the foreign intruders, let me point out that our "most exclusive universities" are private and thus not supported by taxes. The same argument applies to the accusation that foreign students are accepted into top schools because they can pay the full tuition: such schools are largely need-blind and do not consider financial need when determining whether a student is to be accepted.
Regarding the issue of "set-asides," such a conception is not an accurate picture of how the admissions process works. Rather than using quotas, admissions offices factor in context as well as achievement in judging potential students. A wealthy Port Washington student with educated, successful, concerned parents has had more opportunities than a student from a poor, single-parent, non-English speaking household in the Bronx. They cannot possibly be equated in terms of background. Hence, their accomplishments cannot be compared directly either.
Hard-working American students do not "... need a fair and level playing ground," they already have one. There are a multitude of colleges and universities in our country, so a shortage of institutions is not the problem. Neither is money, really: state schools offer low tuition to in-state residents, and many private schools also met all financial need (especially the more elite universities). Other schools also offer merit-based scholarships to qualified applicants. Foreign students and minorities face many more obstacles than middle-class Americans, because American schools are designed for American students. The best US students have their choice of where to go to college, and the only ones who suffer from competition with foreign/minority students are those who lack motivation anyway.