Let's Treat College Admissions like Immigration

Last week, President Donald Trump endorsed an immigration bill put forth by Senators David Perdue and Tom Cotton. The reaction was swift yet predictable. A so-called Republican strategist, Ana Navaro, called it “un-American,”  Unsurprisingly, she was a Jeb! supporter in the presidential primaries.

CNN’s Jim Acosta, auditioning for Wolf Blitzer’s or Don Lemon’s gig on CNN, beclowned himself during a White House press conference by equating a contest-winning poem with the US Constitution. Big deal. CNN doesn’t recognize the US Constitution as a founding document, instead relying on the front page of the New York Times or the Washington Post as the law of the land.

But all is not lost in the Beltway echo chamber. In a “when pigs fly” moment, Politico defended the immigration bill.

This rush to judgment is way over the top, and largely uninformed. The current immigration system is desperately in need of reform, and a careful examination of the proposal shows that not only will it likely create substantial economic gains for the country in the long term, it also eliminates elements of our current policy that are hard to defend.

Bingo! Common sense measures updating an immigration system devised when the Beatles released “Ticket to Ride” and “Help.”  Now fifty years later, we have unfettered immigration plan giving unskilled and uneducated immigrants a “ticket to ride” on the back of US taxpayers. Who in the last election voted for Donald Trump as a cry for “help.”

The Cotton-Purdue plan, known as the RAISE Act, has two major provisions. A limit to how many immigrants should be allowed into the US and who exactly should be allowed in.

The how many is 140,000 visas. The who is based on the sort of skill-based point system currently in use in Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Points are awarded based on education, occupation, age and English language proficiency.

I am quite familiar with New Zealand’s requirements, as I hold a work visa there. It was awarded based on my education, training and usefulness to the New Zealand medical system. And I did have to demonstrate my proficiency in English, despite my occasional inappropriate apostrophe use as pointed out by even more English proficient readers of American Thinker.

In a delicious bit of hypocrisy, Rolling Stone called Trump’s immigration ideas “deeply worrisome” but at the same time posed a question about Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, “Why can’t he be our president?” Yes, the same Justin Trudeau and same Canada whose immigration policy Donald Trump just endorsed. Do they not keep track of what they write at Rolling Stone?

Suppose US colleges and universities instituted an admission plan like our current immigration policy. How might this work? Let’s take Harvard University as an example. Harvard College admits 2000 undergraduates each year, enrolling just over 80 percent of those. Out of a pool of 40,000 applicants. Why don’t they accept everyone who wants to attend? Why select only 5 percent of those who want to attend Harvard? That’s not fair.

After all, Harvard has an endowment of over $37 billion. If Harvard were a country and its endowment were its GDP, it would rank 96th among all countries in the world, ahead of Paraguay, El Salvador, Estonia and Iceland. An endowment of that size could easily support additional housing and teachers so that all of Jim Acosta’s “huddled masses learning to breathe free” who want to attend Harvard could do so.

Same for all the Ivy League schools, with similarly large endowments. What about 800 or so US colleges and universities with a combined endowment of $515 billion, which as a single country would be ranked 23rd in the world in terms of GDP, ahead of Sweden, Poland, Belgium and Austria. Why can they afford to admit all students, just as America is supposed to do with all immigrants?

But no. Colleges have admissions requirements. In other words, their admission is skill-based with a point system reflecting grades, SAT scores, extracurricular activities, accomplishments, recommendations and a language proficiency test in the form of one or more essays. Suppose colleges waived all such requirements and opened their classrooms to any and all who wanted to attend?

The Cotton-Purdue proposal also curtails the family preference system which allows US immigrants to bring in their relatives. As Politico points out:

A newly arrived immigrant can eventually bring in his or her sibling. That sibling will then be able to bring in his or her spouse. But the sibling’s spouse will eventually be able to bring in the sibling’s spouse’s parents and siblings, and on and on.

Why not for Harvard too? Buffy is admitted to the incoming freshman class. She is a straight A student with exceptional board scores. She was captain of the lacrosse and softball teams. She started a small business while in high school, sold it to Google, used the proceeds to fund an AIDS treatment clinic in Africa, and in her spare time tutors the homeless. Her college essay was published in The Atlantic. On the point system, she was a slam dunk admission.

Her brother Biff, on the other hand, flunked 10th grade, never took the SATs, spent 6 months in jail for larceny, has a cocaine problem, and is Hepatitis C positive. Shouldn’t he automatically be admitted to Harvard by virtue of being Buffy’s brother? Suppose Biff is married to Candy, who he met in a Vegas strip club. Candy started working in the adult industry after 9th grade. She is quite accomplished and skillful, but not in the way Harvard admissions committees prefer. She would automatically be admitted along with Biff.

As would her mother Tiffany, only 14 years older than Candy, working as a waitress, believing that a Harvard degree would improve her lot in life. Once Tiffany is at Harvard, she can bring her brother Billy Bob, currently working in a Mississippi junkyard. And so on and so on.

Widener Library, Harvard

Foolishness and caricatures aside, why wouldn’t the most desirable and wealthy country in the world choose its immigrants with a similar level of scrutiny and selectiveness as its prestigious colleges and universities do?

If the socially conscious and constant virtue signaling universities are so upset over President Trump and his policies, then why don’t they adopt the same immigration program they defend as their own admissions policy?

Brian C Joondeph, MD, MPS, a Denver based physician and writer. Follow him on Facebook,  LinkedIn and Twitter.

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