"So, this poll by AP and NRC was inspired by the recent scandal in college admissions in which a whole bunch of wealthy parents including some celebrities were caught up in the scandal in which they were paying bribes and even having their children accepted as athletes for sports that they didn't play. And so we wanted to take a broad look at what Americans think of the college admissions process, how fair they think it is and what specific aspects of it they think work and don't work."
Boston - April 12, 2019
2. Exterior of federal courthouse
3. Mark Riddell, Florida prep school administrator, arriving at courthouse
"The poll finds that if Americans were in charge of the college admissions process they would do things a little differently from the way that they think that the college admissions process actually works."
"The poll shows that about four in 10 Americans think that colleges do give significant weight to legacy status in the admissions process, but only about one in 10 think that that should be an important aspect of the admissions process. Similarly, there is a similar divide between the percentage of Americans who think that it should be important if the family has donated money versus how many think that it actually should be considered important. Similarly, a slim majority think that schools place a lot of emphasis on athletic ability and only about a third think that it should be important to the admissions process."
"The poll also found that Americans are divided on whether race and ethnicity should be considered an important part of the college admissions process. Only 27 percent said they think that race and ethnicity should be an important factor to colleges and about four in 10 think that it is an important factor to colleges. There's a big divide along racial lines. About half of black Americans think that it should be important and only about two in 10 white Americans think that."
Los Angeles - March 13, 2019
9. Various of the University of Southern California campus
As a sweeping bribery scandal reignites debate over college admissions, a pair of new polls reveals that many Americans think the nation's universities place too much emphasis on factors such as wealth, family ties and athletic ability.
The surveys, conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and the Higher Education Analytics Center at NORC, finds Americans about evenly divided on the overall fairness of college admissions, but their views on individual selection criteria reveal a rift between the factors they see as important and the factors they think colleges value.
The polls were conducted in March and April, weeks after federal prosecutors accused 33 parents of paying bribes to cheat on their children's college entrance tests or get them into elite schools including Stanford, Yale and Georgetown.
In some cases, investigators said, parents paid bribes to get their children labeled as recruited athletes for sports they didn't even play.
Against that backdrop, some college counselors said they expected wide distrust of the admissions process. Instead, the results were mixed: about 4 in 10 say they think the process is fair, while a similar share said it's unfair. About a quarter are neutral.
Overall, Americans are most likely to say they think high school grades and standardized test scores should be important in admissions, and majorities agree that colleges value those factors too.
Similarly, many think that extracurricular activities should play a role and say that colleges take them into account.
But on other criteria, there's a clash between the way Americans think students should be picked and the way they think colleges actually operate.
Nearly 4 in 10, for example, say they think colleges give significant weight to legacy status, or whether a student has a family member who attended the school, but just 11% say they think it should be important.
Many similarly think colleges consider whether a student's family has donated money to the school, but few say it should matter.
When it comes to athletic ability, about a third say they think it should be an important factor, but a slim majority think it actually is.
Overall, Americans show little support for the consideration of race in admissions. Just 27% say race and ethnicity should be an important factor, while 4 in 10 say they think it is.
That's alarming to backers of affirmative action, which has faced a flurry of legal challenges recently.
A federal judge is now weighing a lawsuit arguing that Harvard should stop using race in its decisions amid allegations of bias against Asian Americans.
At the same time, the Trump administration has opened inquiries into the use of race at Harvard and Yale, and it recently ordered Texas Tech University's medical school to stop considering applicants' race.
Still, the polls find the issue is largely drawn down racial lines. About half of black Americans say racial background should be important, while just 22% of white Americans do.
Americans appear to be divided by age when it comes to the importance of standardized tests like the SAT and ACT, the polls find.
Among those 50 and older, three-quarters say test scores should be important, while just about half of those under 30 agree.
Such tests have come under scrutiny following accusations that some parents in the bribery scheme paid to rig their children's entrance exams.
But even before that, a growing number of colleges were moving away from reliance on the tests, often making them optional as a way to promote equity and draw a more diverse mix of applicants.
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