Hiken: Northwestern’s decreasing acceptance rate is not ‘great’

Asa Hiken, Op-Ed Contributor

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A few days ago, The Daily Northwestern published an article regarding the recent drop in the undergraduate acceptance rate, from 10.7 percent to 9 percent. Included in this article was a statement by University spokesman Al Cubbage on the matter.

‘“It’s great,” Cubbage said. “It’s a wonderful thing because it just shows the increasing reputation and stature of Northwestern.”

There are several issues I have with Cubbage’s statement. The first is his idea that a decreasing acceptance rate corresponds to an increased reputation and stature. He seems to believe that when NU denies more applicants, it somehow becomes a stronger, more established university. I am aware that the country’s top institutions tend to have lower acceptance rates, but what I do not understand, and what Cubbage suggests, is that a decreased acceptance rate automatically and inherently improves our reputation. This wrongfully assumes that exclusion and competition mean quality.

Secondly, Cubbage’s quote neglects the implications that a decreasing acceptance rate has on high school students who are aspiring to attend universities like NU. It fails to acknowledge that that 1.7 percent drop yields approximately 2,540 more rejection letters, meaning 2,540 more “Don’t worry, honey — wait for the next one,” comments and 2,540 more sad, sunken teenage hearts. Let us keep in mind rejection letters from universities explicitly state, “We regret to inform you.” His statement seems to express no regret. Instead, there is gratification.

I am ultimately concerned as to why Cubbage thinks rejecting the most applicants in school history is somehow “a wonderful thing.” Through this assertion, Cubbage essentially states that the well-being of students, specifically prospective students, pales in comparison to the “stature” and “reputation” of the University. There is undoubtedly a tradeoff between boosting school status and accepting worthy applicants, but Cubbage promotes a harmful mentality. In other words, Cubbage’s words imply that students are merely a means to an end in the eyes of the administration. So what if a few dreams are crushed along the way?

Let me be clear: by no means am I suggesting that Northwestern should be admitting more students. I understand that with more applicants come more rejections; however, I do ask, Mr. Cubbage, to please not flaunt this reality as a basis of merit for the University. A decreasing acceptance rate is not “great.” Rather, it is a sad reminder of higher education’s continuing devolution into heartless competition.

Asa Hiken is a Weinberg freshman. He can be contacted at AsaHiken2020@u.northwestern.edu. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to opinion@dailynorthwestern.com.