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Carleton’s acceptance rate drops: we care about prestige, not people

Carleton recorded a record- low 17.5% admissions rate for the class of 2025. While this news was probably accompanied by cheers in Scoville Hall, it shouldn’t be a cause for celebration. 

Carleton has not magically become a better school because we rejected 1,000 more applicants this year than last. Our professors aren’t any better, our students aren’t any happier and our classes aren’t any more rigorous. The drop is nothing but a symbol of how Carleton continues to choose exclusivity over inclusivity for the sake of Carleton’s ‘brand.’

Carleton’s brand can best be measured by the all important and eminently stupid US News and World Report Rankings. Acceptance rate is one of the main criteria by which colleges are judged. Lower acceptance rate, better ranking. Better ranking, better brand. 

The problem is that Carleton has chosen to be a luxury brand; we’re trying to be Gucci instead of Old Navy. To be at Carleton is to be a part of an exclusive group that grants exclusive privileges: we have fantastic professors, plenty of funding for extracurriculars, fancy food and a luxurious living environment. And like most luxury brands, Carleton is reserved for the rich. 

There is a general idea on campus that roughly half of students who attend Carleton pay full price to subsidize the other half that are on financial aid. That’s basically correct. So you’d think half of the students that go here are ‘poor’ because they need financial aid. They’re not.

According to a 2013 analysis by Stanford economist Raj Chetty, almost 70% of Carleton students come from the top 20%. Even more shocking, a full 14% of students come from the top 1% while only 2.9% come from the bottom 20%. Let that sink in. 

I cannot emphasize enough how segregated Carleton is along class lines, so I will repeat those numbers: 14% from the top 1%; Almost 70% from the top 20%; 2.9% from the bottom 20%. 

Carleton can pontificate as much as it wants about inclusion, about our wonderful financial aid package and accepting a diverse student body. It’s a lie. According to Chetty’s 2013 analysis, only 1.4% of Carleton students come from poor families and become rich adults. Carleton is an integral cog in the American machine that keeps the poor poor and the rich rich. 

Carleton does not care about social mobility — why would they? Are poor people supposed to wear Gucci? No. The point of luxury brands is to differentiate between the poor and the rich, to say, “I went to Carleton, a prestigious, exclusive, elite liberal arts college.” Poor people don’t have prestige, so Carleton doesn’t want them. 

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