What people say about Color and Money-

"Anyone interested in the inequities of the selective college admissions process will find Color and Money clear-eyed, hard-hitting, enlightening, and informative."--Rachel Toor, author of Admissions Confidential: An Insider's Account of the Elite College Selection Process.
"For those concerned about why the march toward social justice in America has faltered badly for nearly forty years, Peter Schmidt's Color and Money is a highly instructive--and greatly disturbing--guidepost." --Richard Kluger, author of Simple Justice: The History of Brown v. Board of Education and Black America's Struggle for Equality.
"An indispensible guide to the debate over affirmative action in the United States."--Michael Lind, author of The Next American Nation.
"This book is a must read for anyone concerned with access to higher education, especially to the nation’s elite universities, as well as with larger questions of social policy and social justice."--Terry MacTaggart, Former Chancellor, University of Maine System
"Books on the highly-charged issue of affirmative action are usually one-sided and inflammatory. Peter Schmidt's Color and Money is a wonderful exception. It provides an honest and fair examination that is also passionate and illuminating."--Richard D. Kahlenberg, Senior Fellow, The Century Foundation, and author of The Remedy: Class, Race, and Affirmative Action

Peter Schmidt is available as a speaker

Peter Schmidt is available to speak at colleges, bookstores, schools, churches, and at gatherings of education associations. His past speaking engagements are listed at the bottom of this Web site. If interested in having him appear, e-mail him at schmidt_peter@msn.com. He also is available as an expert source for journalists covering affirmative action. Those on a tight deadline should email him at peter.schmidt@chronicle.com.

Hear interviews with Peter Schmidt

Jack Lessenberry of Michigan Public Radio talked to Peter Schmidt about Color and Money in August. You can hear the interview here. Reading the book inspired Jack to write an essay on it, which you can read here. You also can hear Peter Schmidt talk about his book on the NPR program Justice Talking and in a Chronicle of Higher Education podcast.

Color and Money Is a College Course!

Many college professors are now using Color and Money in their classes, but Jack Dougherty, the director of the educational studies program at Trinity College in Connecticut, has gone a big step beyond. He has decided to name a freshman seminar "Color and Money" and to structure the class around the book. He has graciously agreed to share his syllabus, available here, for faculty members at other colleges who may have the same idea.


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

U. of Illinois Takes Heat for Lowering the Bar for Applicants with Clout

Officials at the University of Illinois are scrambling to deal with the fallout from a series of Chicago Tribune articles exposing how the institution maintained a "shadow admissions system" opening its doors to subpar applicants backed by lawmakers and university trustees.

As the book Color and Money makes clear, the University of Illinois is hardly alone in systematically lowering the bar on behalf of applicants with political connections. College lobbyists in state capitals say they must routinely accept requests to grease the skids for certain applicants from the state lawmakers that their institutions rely on for funds. College lobbyists in Washington similarly field requests from members of Congress to help applicants who might not gain admission on their own.

Two of the university administrators who oversaw the admissions practices examined in the Tribune investigation--the current president of the University of Illinois, B. Joseph White, and the former chancellor of university's Champaign-Urbana campus, Nancy Cantor--had maintained a similar mechanism for helping favored applicants circumvent merit-based admissions in their previous positions at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. Under the point-based undergraduate admissions system ultimately rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court in its 2003 Gratz v. Bollinger decision, Michigan reserved the right to award any applicant a 20-point bonus--the equivalent of the different between a 3.0 GPA and a 4.0 GPA--on its 150-point scale. No formal justification for the bonus awards was given.

The Chicago Tribune first exposed clout-based admissions at the University of Illinois in an article published May 29. That article, based on an examination of university records obtained through the state's Freedom of Information Act, described how the university classified applicants with the backing of powerful people as "Category I," and admitted some of the objections of its own admissions officers while quietly reversing the rejections of others.

In summarizing its key findings, the newspaper said:

--University officials recognized that certain students were underqualified--but admitted them anyway.
--Admissions officers complained in vain as their recommendations were overruled.
--Trustees pushed for preferred students, some of whom were friends, neighbors and relatives.
--Lawmakers delivered admission requests to U. of I. lobbyists, whose jobs depend on pleasing the lawmakers.
--University officials delayed admissions notifications to weak candidates until the end of the school year to minimize the fallout at top feeder high schools.

The article noted that about half of this year's 160 Category I applicants have ties to state lawmakers, and "a 2009 log managed by the university's government affairs office tracked nearly 80 applicants pushed by politicians."

Accompanying the article were internal university e-mails revealing that administrators regarded many of the applicants they were admitting as well below par, and that the university's law school also admitted subpar applicants with clout. Among the undergraduate applicants who had rejections reversed was a relative of convicted influence peddler Tony Rezko whose case was championed by then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

In a separate article published on May 31, the Tribune described how former governors Blagojevich and James Thompson leaned on gubernatorially appointed trustees to get applicants admitted. A related May 31 article describing the mechanisms through which politicians got applicants admitted tells of "an ongoing power struggle between educators who want to protect the integrity of the state's most prestigious public university and administrators who also feel compelled to appease powerful lawmakers."

University officials initially downplayed the role that the so-called "clout list" played in admissions. In the face of widespread outrage, however, they quickly pledged to clean up the process. On June 1 the university told the newspaper it was suspending the use of a clout list in the admissions process and setting up a task force to find ways to rid the admissions process of undue political influence.