I recently heard a news blurb in which is was reported that university admissions officers admitted that they were looking for students who could pay full tuition. This is hardly a shock. After all, education budgets are being cut as is financial aid and some way has to be found to support the ever increasing number of well paid university administrators. Naturally, the other expenses (such as faculty salaries) have to be paid as well.
While this is a sensible approach to a financial problem, it does raise some serious concerns. First, admission is supposed to be based primarily on merit rather than the ability to hand over cash. Second, preference given to people who can pay full price will mean that better qualified but less affluent students can be excluded in their favor. This has the potential to damage one of the primary means of upward mobility in America: the ability of people from the lower classes to rise up via education. In addition to being bad for the students in question, it would also seem to be bad for the country in general. After all, much of our social stability and success as a country has come from the fact that upward mobility based on merit is possible. Diminishing this could have rather unfortunate consequences as is shown quite clearly by the history of countries who either lacked such mobility or saw it reduced.
Naturally, it could be argued that true merit rests in the market forces. Universities that pick students based on ability rather than their available wealth are not following the proper business model. After all, products are not given out or discounted based on merit or need in the world of business. Rather, it is a matter of who can pay. Switching universities to a profit based model in which students are assessed based on their ability to pay and are treated primarily as paying customers rather than in the traditional ways surely is the best way for education to go. What has ever gone wrong with excluding talented lower class people from the system? What could possibly go wrong with an education system that is focused on profits? After all, it is worked so great in business that it surely cannot fail in the context of education. Also, once universities operate just like other corporations, they can expect support from the Republicans.