It’s a question college financial advisers and college students have been grappling with since 2011 when a lawsuit filed by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) challenged the eligibility of the College Board to assess financial aid for students in the private sector.
The college board has said that its assessment of financial aid is “accurate” and that it is based on data from the Department of Education, but critics have said that the assessment is based less on academic standards than it is on what the government considers the value of a degree.
“If you are a black man and you’re an artist, you have more in common with an artist than you do with a white guy,” says Robert Gailman, a professor at George Washington University Law School and author of “The Good College: The College Board’s Quest for Transparency.”
In his book, “The Bad College: How the College and Its College-Bound Students Hurt Our Higher Education System,” Gailmon argued that a “profound bias” exists toward college students.
“College has long been a place where the rich, the powerful, and the well-connected get a great deal of attention,” Gaitman wrote.
“It’s an elite institution where white, male students get to choose how to educate themselves.
That’s not what a meritocratic, public-service college looks like.
The way colleges treat people of color is very different from how the same institutions treat people in the workforce, the middle class, and other traditionally disadvantaged groups.
College should be a place of opportunity, but it’s also a place for those who have less than stellar academic records.”
The suit was filed by ACTA, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), and the National Association of Scholars.
It sought a declaratory judgment that the College Rules Act, which requires public institutions to treat all students equally regardless of race, was unconstitutional because it imposed discriminatory rules on the awarding of scholarships.ACTA argued that the rules violated the First Amendment rights of private institutions, students, and parents because they imposed restrictions on the private, non-profit organizations from which students are eligible.
The plaintiffs, who include two alumni groups, said that they had “no expectation of privacy in the information we provide to the College” and feared that the college could access their private information without their consent.
“The College Rules are designed to prevent the public from learning about the activities and decisions of colleges that might affect the student, and to limit the ability of the public to assess the quality of a college education,” the complaint states.
The lawsuit also cited a “lack of transparency” about how colleges determine which students qualify for scholarships, and it said that “the College Rules violate the constitutional rights of a large number of students.”ACTA has argued that while colleges may not have the same financial burdens as public universities, they have a “higher degree of accountability” and “a more robust financial aid process” that provides them with a “fair, impartial, and timely evaluation of their students.”
The College Board said it was reviewing the lawsuit and that the decision would be made in due course.