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WSJ Reporter Melissa Korn Discusses the “Varsity Blues” College Admissions Scandal

Episode 19

July 28, 2020 31 minutes


EAB’s Mathew Pellish interviews the interviewer in a rare sit-down with Wall Street Journal higher education reporter Melissa Korn. Melissa shares insights from her reporting and from her investigation into last year’s “Varsity Blues” admissions scandal—the largest college admissions scam ever prosecuted by the Department of Justice. She talks about what she learned through interviews and research that led to a newly released book (“Unacceptable”) Melissa co-wrote with her colleague, Jennifer Levitz.

Matt and Melissa talk about why the scandal was such an eye-opener and what it revealed about the dark side of college admissions. Finally, they discuss how the admissions game has evolved and whether all but the most elite institutions have lost leverage in terms of what they can charge and how selective they can afford to be in turning away applicants.



0:00:00.5 Matt Pellish: From EAB, I’m Matt Pellish and this is Office Hours, the podcast exploring the world of higher education. We spent many of our past weeks on Office Hours talking in some way, shape or form about all the complexities brought about when schools face a global pandemic, an economic recession and a social justice movement in the country, all at the same time. But before all of that took hold, there was another story we were talking about that exploded beyond just the higher ed trade press. A story of bribery, admissions, scandal, it was called “Varsity Blues.” On today’s episode, I sit down with Wall Street Journal reporter Melissa Korn, to talk about her investigation into Varsity Blues that led to a newly released book titled “Unacceptable.” We’ll talk about why this scandal was more than just the celebrities that were implicated and eventually prosecuted, as well as what it revealed about the dark side of college admissions. Thanks for listening and welcome to Office Hours with EAB.


0:01:10.7 MP: Welcome to Office Hours. This week, we welcome Melissa Korn from The Wall Street Journal. Melissa, why don’t you just give us a quick introduction of your background, who you are and why you’ve come to join us to talk with us a little bit today.

0:01:21.8 Melissa Korn: Sure. I’m a higher education reporter for the Wall Street Journal, based in New York. I’ve been doing this job for going on six years now, covering higher ed, and I write about everything from the financial model for colleges, to the ROI of a college degree, to admissions, and on the admissions front, I’ve been covering the Varsity Blues scandal since it broke back in March 2019, and wrote a book about it.

0:01:47.8 MP: Unacceptable, just is released, I believe, last week when this will actually air, so it just came out. Congratulations on the book and everything else about it. We are gonna talk a little bit about that today, but before you can get to that, I think we’re both joining from New York, it’s about 100 degrees in the shade in the nice New York July summers, and the kids are running around ’cause they have nowhere else to go without camps and other things, so you might hear some things in the background throughout today’s episode with my kids and your neighborhood, what we all have going on there, so be prepared for that as we go into today’s episode.

0:02:19.1 MK: The new work from home reality involves children and pets and all sorts of other fun things.

0:02:23.8 MP: We’ve seen a lot of interesting things on Zoom meetings, pets and people and getting to know, but it’s that great insight into people’s lives as well that I think we get from that remote-type work.

0:02:33.6 MK: My daughter likes to come by and just… She’s quiet, she knows she can’t talk, but she just comes over and gives me a hug and a kiss, and then just stares, stands there and just stares.

0:02:42.3 MP: It’s nice. My son today even came up, I was on a call, came up, took my earbud out and put it in his own ear and just sat there, didn’t say anything, so it was fine, but you’re just getting used to that at first.


0:02:51.7 MP: Melissa, tell us a little bit about Unacceptable and the background of the story, not to go into great depth here of telling us the whole book, ’cause I know a lot of people have learned about Rick Singer in the background to this, but just your quick overview for those who would be a little bit less knowledgeable about the Varsity Blues scandal.

0:03:06.8 MK: Sure. So the book, I co-wrote it with another Wall Street Journal reporter, Jennifer Levitz, and it’s really about the Varsity Blues scandal itself and the context in which this happened, so what was it about college admissions that allowed for this scheme to develop and to be… For them to pull it off for so long, and then also, what brought it down, and we end with a kind of, “What lessons have we learned, if any?” I tend to be pretty cynical and skeptical and negative and think, probably not as many as we should have, but it’s the play-by-play of the whole scandal, but with an explanation of what’s going on in society that led this… Led us to this point.

0:03:53.5 MP: With that as a little bit of a jumping off point, does this happen that often? So you read a scandal that’s this big, it comes out in the news, it obviously made a big splash in the news media, not just for those of us who read a lot about higher education and are reading your articles, but everywhere. This got everyone’s attention because of the celebrity nature of it. Is this a unique case of something that goes on all the time? Is this very exceptional because the celebrities were involved? What was it about this that made it such a story for the media and for everybody else?

0:04:20.2 MK: Right. So I think this was an exceptional case in its breadth, in its scope, in just how complex the machinations were for it to occur, for the test cheating to happen, for the athletic profiles to be doctored, and how many people had to be in on the game for this to work, it’s pretty extraordinary. But people cheat all the time. People cheat in college admissions all the time, as much as we’d like to not admit that, so I think it was an egregious example of something that, to some extent or another, does occur. College admissions is this fierce, fierce game for a lot of people, for the sliver of schools, I should say. We focus so much of our time on a particular subset of schools when most students go to schools that admit most people and are not nearly this selective, and you don’t have to bend over backwards and contort yourself to get in, but for those schools where that is the case, I had multiple people refer to it as blood sport, which I think says a lot about the mindset of college admissions today. So there are people looking for an edge, looking to cut corners, it’s just that the Varsity Blues case did it in such extreme ways and happened to have some pretty high-profile people attached to it.

0:05:38.3 MP: Yeah, and you talk a lot about that, the blood sport nature of admissions, and it goes back even to the starting of the US News and World reports and rankings and all of the very competitive nature about this. Can you talk about how this admissions game has maybe evolved over time that got to this point of the Singer story and of Varsity Blues, that it was very aggressive, a lot of people paying a lot of money, being very competitive in the dynamics of this? And we’ve been talking about it for a long time. I go back to when I was reading about this, the book, “The Gatekeepers,” and all of this about college admissions. How has it evolved over time? Where do you see it today? And I always go to, was it the result of the boom time of higher education? More and more kids, more and more families willing to pay more and more money to go to school, that made this a possibility? Is that the case, or how else has admissions maybe changed?

0:06:24.7 MK: I think that’s a big part of it. I think parents want the best for their children, they want them to go to the best possible school, and at some point, it shifted from the best school for them to the best school period, and rankings played a role in that, for sure. We describe in the book that rankings, yes, they measure the schools, but in some way, they also measure the students and families associated with those schools, so if your kid goes to a number 10 school versus the number 100 school, you have certain bragging rights attached to that. I think the… Having more people graduate from high school and head toward college, the competition is just greater. You have schools that were safety schools 10, 15, 20 years ago that aren’t anymore. They’re more of a crapshoot now. So that uncertainty for families makes them want to apply to more schools, and it turns into this vicious cycle. I think the competition part is really important here. Kind of, what is the end goal for families? And I think that’s changed. It used to just be about getting an education, and for more and more families, it’s about getting an education at a certain type of school or at a certain brand name school.

0:07:37.3 MK: The system also just looks a lot different than it did when parents… The parents of current high school students, when those parents went to school. You would apply to a couple of schools, a couple of regionals, maybe a reach, and call it a day. And now it’s 10, 15 schools for some students are applying to, and it just seems much scarier. The stakes seem much higher, right? You look at the job market, you look at the unemployment rate for college graduates versus non-graduates. The stakes seem higher. The stakes are higher, so I can understand why this frenzy has built up and has gotten to quite the point where it is now.

0:08:16.4 MP: Melissa, you go off of that point of talking a lot about families and the recognition of the family kind of getting into the schools here and being recognized about it. And as we talked a little bit before, we’re both parents. I want the best for my kids. I’m pretty sure you want the best for your daughter as well, and we would do almost anything within reason and within legality here for the betterment of our children so they can do the best for their lives. Devil’s advocate here a little bit. Is it that wrong to want to do that much for your kids? Is it a natural impulse here that takes over, short of breaking the law, to give your children a leg up in the college admissions process? Is that wrong?

0:08:53.2 MK: I don’t think it’s wrong to want the best for your child. I think most parents would say that they do, and even non-parents want the best for the people that they love and care for. The question is, how far do you go? And at what cost? So something that has been really striking as Jennifer and I reported out the story and spoke to more and more families and just other people involved in it is, at what cost are you doing this? So are you helping, are you actually helping your kid? If you’re editing his or her essay for grammar, or brainstorming ideas of what to write about, or bringing them on a few campus trips. Okay. That seems fairly reasonable. Are you knocking down any obstacle in their way from the time they’re toddlers up until they’re adults, so that they never have to experience any hardship? That’s probably not very helpful for your child because it’s good for a kid to learn how to deal with disappointment. How to bounce back, how to rebound, all that stuff.

0:09:54.9 MK: I think, yeah, there’s a lot of discussion of this generation of not having those skills. Not knowing how to fail and get back up and proceed with their lives. So I think, no, there’s nothing wrong with parents wanting the best for their kids and getting involved in this process. It is a family affair for many when parents are paying at least a portion of the cost. They shouldn’t be somewhat involved when they’re writing some checks. But it has to be driven by the kid, and I think at the end of the book, we spoke to one of the students who was involved in this, and he said, looking back, he just wished he had had more breathing room. That his parents weren’t so in his face and driving the whole discussion and dictating where he needed to go and what he needed to do to get there. Just let him pursue his passion. Most of these kids are resilient and will be okay. I think, if anything, the last few months, we’ve seen kids can get some pretty crazy stuff thrown at them and my child is so remarkably okay.

0:10:56.5 MP: Sure.

0:10:57.6 MK: So getting into your third choice college instead of your first choice college, let the kid explore that and get through that. Be there to support him or her, but…

0:11:08.5 MP: Yeah. I think I’ve been talking with schools so long about the helicopter parent, and what you’ve described is the new… There are many terms, snow plough, bulldozer, whatever, where they just get everything out of the way. It’s almost saying the helicopter maybe wasn’t that bad in some sense before we got to the snow plough.

0:11:22.8 MK: Right. Hovering, I kind of understand. But it’s when you go in and you start knocking things down before they’re even a problem. We have this one anecdote in the book about this mother who, her son was working on a puzzle and he couldn’t quite fit the pieces together. So she just very subtly nudged the piece into place and he didn’t even notice, but all of a sudden the puzzle was done and, “Yay, bravo. The kid succeeded.” And that just so perfectly encapsulates what so many of these parents did.

0:11:50.3 MP: Right. Right.

0:11:51.1 MK: They maybe went a little bit too far.

0:11:52.7 MP: Well, they went a little too far, and there’s those stories, of course, and you mentioned a lot of them, of often times giving large donations to institutions. It’s either the sort of back door, you talk about the side door in some cases, the little gray area between those two and what it means. Generally, we think this happens, we know this happens, we hear a lot about the stories of it happening. We just always wonder what is the line here between a legitimate gift, a shady bribe, what Singer was doing? And how do you know, or how do you think about it that way? And where do those lines sort of break for people to understand it?

0:12:22.1 MK: I think it’s complicated. The chapter in the book, we call it the gray area, ’cause I think there is just a lot of fuzziness around this. What is or isn’t okay, and what is legal might be different from what is moral. And what one school might be okay with and what another might not, might be okay with. So I think, Dan Golden, in his great book, The Price of Admission, 15 years ago, 14 years ago now, really digs into a lot of the back door stuff. So the donations, and this very formalized, if still somewhat opaque approach to admissions. So your family donates enough money for a building, or a few professorships, or an athletic field, or something like that. Chances are Junior, if he’s a decent applicant, will get a pretty close look and potentially get in. And what Rick Singer did was kind of corrupt to that model and muck up who gets the donation, where the money goes, how it’s being used, how much you really need to do it. And he sometimes described what he call the side door as just giving money to a lower profile program. So a smaller dollar amount would be a little bit more bang for your buck. What it really was was bribing coaches or other individuals to get a student flagged as in athletic recruits, they’d be pretty much a sure thing, so it’s… It’s kind of crappy.

0:13:54.3 MP: That’s a pretty clear bribery situation as opposed to other stuff.

0:13:57.2 MK: Quid pro quo, bribery, right. But at the same time, you could argue that they’re on the same spectrum. Not exactly next to each other, but they exist on the same spectrum of what role does money play in college admissions. Being a full-pay student gets you a leg up at some schools for schools that aren’t knee blind. Promising donations, having a prominent name, family name, having particular connections, gives you a leg up. There’s so many different ways in which somebody can get special treatment in admissions and I think Singer’s approach was just the most egregious quite obviously quid pro quo. But there are a lot of others that are also make your skin crawl a little bit, for some.

0:14:48.2 MP: So I wonder about the case that… The world’s different now. When the story broke, ’cause you mentioned in 2019, that this was obviously front page news. This is very exciting for those of us who read about higher education when we’re out there in the press. The world’s different now, in the midst of COVID and everything that’s happened here. Would you say that the pandemic, as it exists right now, it’s really pushed us to look at all but the most elite schools losing a little leverage here, in terms of what they can charge a student, how selective they can afford to be, all of that. What has changed now? What is a little different, if we think of this, or in the midst of the COVID pandemic versus when the story broke?

0:15:24.9 MK: Yeah. So we’ve seen APID rates, for the most selective schools, tick up this year. We’ve seen schools go to wait lists very early and very aggressively. And that does indicate that the leverage, the calculus here, has changed a little bit in terms of who’s in charge. It used to be… I’ve seen plenty of memes on this. I’m sure you have as well, of it used to be the school saying, “Don’t call us. We’ll call you.” And now it’s, “Dear God, please come, pretty please.”

0:15:53.9 MK: So yes that’s changed and maybe these hyper-selective schools aren’t as selective anymore. They’re still plenty selective. But at the same time, you have these schools facing these significant budget crises. And gosh, being a full-pay student or a full-pay student whose family has indicated that they have other money for donations, a school isn’t ignoring that right now. They can’t. So while part of me wants to believe that the pandemic will shift college admissions in some positive ways, I also worry that we’ll see schools focus more on the financials, students financials, and a lot of that progress that might have been made toward equity and access and diversity, socio-economic diversity of students, will backtrack now. We’ll backslide and see schools just focus a little bit more on, “Okay. Can they pay? How much can they give us? Oh, they’re offering a donation too. They have above a C average and then a pulse, great. Let’s let them in.” I don’t think any are quite that extreme, but I think that’s a fair concern.

0:17:05.5 MP: Yeah, I don’t think that they are, but I can certainly see it getting to the point. The issues of the admissions process coupled with what was to be a demographic downturn of 2025, the reduction of 18-year-olds in the country, a lot of admissions folks were really concerned about 2025. That just got pulled forward into 2020…

0:17:23.0 MK: Absolutely.

0:17:24.0 MP: And yeah, so the preparation, I think to your point, that I could see that slide backwards pretty quickly. I think a lot of us are worried about that, from the perspective of equity and all the issues related to this. Because I think with a scandal like this, the scandal, to me, it sort of reinforced the inequities in college admissions and the completion gaps. And so many of those challenges you write about and we write and talk a lot about. So I think you’re right. I think that point is well made there. I hope we don’t slide back in that.

0:17:47.9 MK: I think we’ll learn a lot this fall, as you see students applying. And you see who’s applying. Who even thinks that college is in their future right now, versus maybe they were planning on it a year ago, but now that they’re entering their senior year of high school, it just seems a little bit too far off or too distant or too unattainable. We’ll see what happens with early admissions.

0:18:07.6 MP: Sure.

0:18:07.7 MK: Who will get their act together in the middle of a pandemic to apply to college early right now and get their reference letters. And students who have been planning for this for so long, whose parents have been helping them plan for this for so long, there’s teachers, there’s guidance counselors, these are the ones who go to elite private schools or really well-resourced public schools and you start to see that divide and I think we’ll learn a lot from what happens this fall with early and then regular admissions.

0:18:37.0 MP: Another thing that’s gone on a lot lately is the movement to test optional. We saw University of Chicago make a giant move here. We’ve seen a lot of schools, absolutely follow suit in that elite category and beyond anything. We’re kind of doing away with the tests and a lot of your book, in Unacceptable and beyond that was the cheating scandal that was connected to the SAT and the ACT, and all of our standardized testing. What do you think in terms of benefit comes from going test optional here? There’s the obvious that there should be reduced cheating, but do you see other benefits to it? Are you a fan of the movement away from the testing as a source of information in the admissions process? Just what are some of your reactions there on the test options?

0:19:13.6 MK: I think there have been so many problems discussed about what the test measures or doesn’t measure. I think so many people have looked into whether it’s actually a valuable tool in admissions. Is it a predictor of academic success when you get to college? Is it a better predictor than high school grades? Is it a better predictor than other measures? And increasingly, schools are saying, “No. We don’t think so.” There’s so much concern about the relationship between scores and race and socio-economic status. So I think as schools try to diversify their student populations, they need to look beyond test scores. However, the question that comes up, “Okay. So what do they look at instead?” And just looking at a GPA, of course, that’s helpful to see how somebody performed in high school, but… Yeah, and if you’ve gotten private tutoring your whole life through high school, then your GPA looks a little different than somebody who really tried on their own and didn’t have a parent help with their calculus or something like that. So I think that’s something a lot of schools are trying to figure out now, what else do we look at?

0:20:27.0 MK: You hear a lot about holistic admissions and I’ve heard from a lot of families in reporting for the book and reporting on higher ed, on admissions more broadly for the Wall Street Journal, saying, people are saying, “I’m middle class, I’m upper middle class, I’m a white guy who’s had no real hardship, how do I stand out if I can’t boast of my 1600 SAT score?” And as crazy as it sounds, this is a real concern for many families. “How do I stand out when I haven’t had some traumatic experience?” And they should be obviously grateful that they’ve never had something like that, but in this context of an admissions officer looking at, “What have you overcome?” And the answer is, “Not much of anything,” it’s really hard to imagine how they look, how they can stand out. I think no matter what the criteria are there will be people who try to find an edge, try to game the system, try to cheat it, try to win it. So I think as schools move away from test scores as one of their criteria, they have to be thinking also about what security measures and what checks they have on the other information on an application, if they’re gonna be weighing those other elements more. So if they’re looking at somebody’s resume and a person claims to have spent X number of hours volunteering or being captain of the team or something like that, were they?

0:21:53.6 MP: Sure, and how do you follow-up on all that and have the staff and the resources available to track down every one of those admissions leads or those things you see on a particular application? With that, the idea of the admissions process even changing, are there other things that higher ed institutions, states, government and others that they have done to make it a little tougher now than before for families to submit fraudulent paperwork or put in some of those things of, my child, or as the applicant, I’ve gone and been the captain of the football team, and I was volunteering 10 hours a week at the SPCA, all of those kind of things. Are there any things that have been put in place or changed and to follow-up to that, has it been the result of a scandal like this breaking in the news media or have those changes been taking place for some time?

0:22:36.3 MK: So I think this was a wake-up call for a lot of schools that they really had not been paying much attention to what was in the applications. They were paying attention to the content, but not the veracity of that content. And so in the wake of this scandal, we saw a number of schools announce new checks that they would be putting in place, audits of applications, making sure that somebody who was listed as a recruited athlete, actually shows up and joins the team, and if not, check on why not. I know of at least one high school that said that if we’re gonna be signing off on your application and putting forward a letter of recommendation, we’re gonna do some checks on what you list on your resume. But that’s an incredibly labor-intensive endeavor and most schools can’t afford to do that. Time, more money, the resources to do that. So I do think some schools are recognizing they need to do more, but whether they’ll do it, and especially as we’ve said before in the context of the pandemic and so much else, these big existential questions happening right now, this isn’t top of mind for many of them, I imagine.

0:23:42.3 MP: No, I would think that there are some other more critical issues on the table amidst the pandemic and amidst the social injustice movement in the country, the economic downturn caused by the current state of our economy, etcetera. I think they’ve got a lot of things on their plates, we know they do. But this isn’t something I think that should be ignored either. It’s gotta be…

0:24:01.3 MK: And even if it is something that does take a back burner for another year or two, another couple of admission cycles, that doesn’t mean it should go away because there’s always gonna be another person, whether it’s someone like Rick Singer with an entirely new scheme, there’s always gonna be somebody trying to find a leg up in a dishonest way. And schools have to acknowledge that and address it.

0:24:22.7 MP: You’ve written a lot about higher education, obviously, you’re a higher education reporter for the, Wall Street Journal, what do you like about higher ed? What keeps you writing those articles? And what keeps you sort of writing books, even like, Unacceptable, about the industry?

0:24:35.5 MK: So it’s something that is incredibly relatable, I think, to my readers at the Journal or hopefully for the book, right? So Wall Street Journal readers often went to college themselves, have kids going to college, are in college now. We have an increasingly large young reader population. Many of them have particular affinities for school or love to hate a particular school like the one in Cambridge, Massachusetts. So people just feel connected to higher ed. And it’s such a huge financial undertaking for a student, for a family, that these decisions matter, so I really like writing about something that people can relate to that’s important. It’s not… This isn’t fluff, whether it’s what’s happening inside the classroom, what’s being taught, what school costs, how to pay for it, all of that. I feel like it matters. And I’m more than a few years out of college myself now, but I still feel tied to it myself. I had my own experiences applying to college, going to college. When I was writing this book, I thought a lot about my own college applications and my own experience getting rejected from my first choice school and surviving. [chuckle] And so it’s something that I can relate to. I love talking to students, I love talking to administrators because their eyes light up when they talk about their school, and that’s just so much fun for me to see somebody talk about a topic with such passion, that … passion.

0:26:11.1 MP: Yeah, and you write about this and talk about it, I didn’t go to my first choice school either. I think a lot of people don’t, that’s the nature of admissions when you look at the numbers of acceptances and applicants in many cases. But I think that the part of the story of this, in higher ed is there’s this sort of small group of institutions everybody knows about and things are the top tier institutions and are ranked that way, certainly. But there are so many great schools in this country, that might be a better match for a particular student and their strengths and their interests and their values and their goals. I think we just lose a lot of that when we only worry about getting into the top schools, and a lot of the students who I think were a part of the Varsity Blues scandal got caught up in that, but maybe those schools were obviously not the right choice for them.

0:26:50.4 MK: Right. And you could say the students got caught up, their parents, certainly, got caught up. I think a lot of nuance can be lost in the college admissions discussion of, “You know what, I am really passionate about environmental science, and I think a small school would be better for me, and I’d rather be somewhere rural where I don’t have the buzz of the city, of the distraction.” Okay, so narrow your choices down to that, and you can still go to a wonderful institution, even if it is listed on the regional versus the national ranking or whatever it is, but when you’re talking to families that have themselves been trained to focus on certain aspects of a college’s reputation, that’s a really hard discussion to have. And if we’re talking to families who haven’t had exposure to this themselves, you think about what names they’re seeing in headlines, or they look at the top 10 rankings and they think that’s it, It’s a tough job for guidance counselors, for college counselors and for admissions officers to just get through that noise, and…

0:28:01.6 MP: Good point.

0:28:01.6 MK: I wish them luck. I hope that when it comes time for me to have those discussions with my daughter, we do focus on the what’s best for her versus what’s best by some other ranking.

0:28:14.4 MP: I hope so too for my kids when we get to that point, but I don’t know what higher ed is gonna look like by the time my kids get there, ’cause they’re very young at this point. With that in mind, we’re sitting here in July, you just mentioned how hot it is. Schools are getting ready for August where they’re gonna be welcoming students back in some way, shape or form, maybe on campus, maybe remote, maybe hybrid, we’re not really sure yet though we’ve seen a lot of plans out there, and I just wonder…

0:28:36.8 MK: Yeah, I’m sure while we probably had this conversation, two or three more schools have switched up their plans.

0:28:41.5 MP: I’m guessing so based on what we’re seeing going on the country here in late July. What advice do you have for college leaders as they get ready for the fall? Whatever the new normal is gonna be here at least in the fall of 2020. Do you have any advice for them? Anything that you think is most important that they walk away knowing as a little bit of a hot piece here?

0:28:57.7 MK: I would relay what I hear from a lot of students and parents, and that’s, we want transparency. We understand that certainty isn’t gonna be in the cards right now, that no university institution leader can say, “This is what our plan is, this is what’s going to happen, we guarantee it.” Nobody can say that right now, nobody can guarantee anything that’s gonna happen tomorrow, but to say, “Here are our options, here’s what would trigger a shut down again, mid-semester, here are the case counts or the factors that we’re considering that would make us rethink our plan. Here’s all the different options, we’ve laid out, here’s the implications of those options,” people just wanna understand why the decisions are being made the way they’re being made, and if a school has said, “You know what, we’re not ready to announce a plan yet,” explain why. And once school starts, be very transparent about how… We don’t know what spring is gonna look like yet either. Those conversations are gonna have to start happening pretty early into fall.

0:29:57.7 MP: I think you’re right, I think that communication is critical that that openness, honesty, and honestly, you get to the scandal and all things of wrapping through the whole part of this, honesty, the truth of this transparency, communication, all those sort of core value things that we’d say are intrinsic values.

0:30:12.0 MK: Right. Schools certainly talk about those as part of their values, part of their mission, to educate and inform the public, well, here’s your chance to inform.

0:30:22.3 MP: Melissa, it has been great to talk to you today. I appreciate you coming to Office Hours with EAB and in telling us a little bit about Unacceptable and about some of the writing you’re doing at The Journal. Certainly the book just released last week, hopefully people got that and we’re having more conversations about it in the near future and good luck to managing your daughter here through the rest of the summer and into whatever school looks like here in New York. So thanks so much Melissa, very much appreciate you coming on today.

0:30:45.3 MK: Thank you.


0:30:49.8 MP: Thanks again for listening. Join us next week when my EAB colleagues, Molly O’Connor and Carol Stack, expand on the topic of enrollment and talk about whether colleges should offer a one-time COVID grant to lower the cost of attending in the near term, and why that may be a better option than lowering tuition. For Office Hours with EAB, I’m Matt Pellish.


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How the Pandemic is Changing Tuition Pricing and Financial Aid

EAB experts discuss the pitfalls of “pandemic pricing,” the best way for schools to distribute financial relief to…

How to Grow Community College Enrollment, Featuring the League

Today’s guests discuss reasons for the recent drop in community college enrollment and explore innovations happening across the…

How to Engage Parents During the Recruiting Process

Guests share findings from EAB’s parent communications survey and talk about how to engage parents during their students’…