Role of athletics at Amherst investigated

Amherst College’s Faculty Committee on Admission and Financial Aid (FCAFA) released its report highlighting the role of athletics in Amherst admissions on September 16. The study demonstrated over the last ten years a trend of admitting applicants with weaker academic backgrounds but high athletic ratings in place of non-athletic, but more academically qualified students.

When reviewing applications, the Amherst Office of Admissions assigns an academic ranking from one (highest) to five (lowest) as well as a non-academic rating.

Athletes receive an athletic rating from the coach that also becomes a factor when reviewing their applications.

The report found a discrepancy in admission rates between applicants with the same academic ratings based on their athletic ranking. According to the Amherst Student, the report found “in specific sports, the odds of admission for applicants with high athletic ratings [from coaches] and an academic reader rating of four sometimes exceeded the odds of admission of an applicant in the academic reader rating category two who is not an athlete.”

The largest jump in such admissions occurred from 1993 to 1994, when the percentage of admissions for athletes academically rated four rose from 32.37 percent to 58.47 percent. As a result, twice the number of highly rated athletes enrolled at Amherst. During the ten-year span of the study, Amherst admitted an average of only 9.65 percent of applicants with an academic ranking of four. Nevertheless, academically weaker but athletically stronger matriculants made up at least one-fifth of each class since 1994.

In the past couple of years, the number of highly rated athletes with low academic ratings has declined, with only 27.21 percent of strong athletes rated as academic fours admitted in 1998.

According to the Student, the general trend in admitting academically weaker athletes stems partially from Amherst football’s losing streak in the early ’90’s

The decision to admit more students based on high athletic achievement alienated much of the faculty because, according to Amherst’s charter, the faculty and trustees are supposed to set admissions guidelines. The change in policy with regard to athletic admits occurred without faculty consultation.

Following the release of this report, the FCAFA proposed three ways to further modify this trend: including the dean of admission and financial aid in the FCAFA, requiring a committee to review all “high-risk” applicants and creating a committee of faculty and administrators to assess college admissions policy each year.

In addition Director of Admissions and Financial Aid Tom Parker, formerly the Director of Admissions at Williams, would like to implement a more research-based admissions process, similar to the system used here.