Selling Hope and CollegeMerit, Markets, and Recruitment in an Unranked School

Selling Hope and CollegeMerit, Markets, and Recruitment in an Unranked School

Alex Posecznick

Print publication date: 2017

ISBN: 9781501707582

Publisher: Cornell University Press


It has long been assumed that college admission should be a simple matter of sorting students according to merit, with the best heading off to the Ivy League and highly ranked liberal arts colleges and the rest falling naturally into their rightful places. Admission to selective institutions, where extremely fine distinctions are made, is characterized by heated public debates about whether standardized exams, high school transcripts, essays, recommendation letters, or interviews best indicate which prospective students are worthy. And then there is college for everyone else. But what goes into less-selective college admissions? Ravenwood College was a small, private, nonprofit institution dedicated to social justice and serving traditionally underprepared students from underrepresented minority groups. To survive in the higher education marketplace, the college had to operate like a business and negotiate complex categories of merit while painting a hopeful picture of the future for its applicants. This book is a snapshot of a particular type of institution as it goes about the business of producing itself and justifying its place in the market. This book documents what it takes to keep such an institution open and running, and the struggles, tensions, and battles that members of the community tangle with daily as they carefully walk the line between empowering marginalized students and exploiting them.