Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Dear Colleagues:

As part of the PCACAC AP Committee’s desire to proactively discuss ethics, we will be sending out monthly “case studies.” In these cases, we will offer a situation and discuss whether the issue is in compliance with NACAC’s Statement of Principles of Good Practices (SPGP). This month’s case was submitted by Casey Zimmer, Director of College Counseling at Sanford School (DE) and PCACAC Admissions Practices Committee member. If you have a question about a situation or SPGP, please contact a member of the AP Committee.

July Case:  Chuck the Counselor was sitting in his office, enjoying the last few minutes of the first day of school when Peppermint Patty, his "busiest" student, walked in.

"Hey, Chuck," said Peppermint Patty, "It's great to see you again! How was your summer? That's great, Chuck. You sure deserved some downtime this summer, and I'll bet you got it! You sure look 10 years younger than you did when I left you last spring, Chuck. Nice job. Hey, Chuck, can you take care of this for me? I need to get it in next week. I visited Snoopy U last month, and I really think I want to go there. Or maybe I won't. But I still need to get this in, because they really were impressed with me, Chuck. They even said if I applied with this application I would get a merit scholarship and stuff. I'm not sure what that's about, but I sure want it, with how hard I've worked! Thanks, Chuck!"
And out she walked, giving Chuck the Counselor little time to process what "conversation" just occurred.
Chuck looked at the piece of paper Peppermint Patty had given him. It was an official transcript request for Snoopy U with an attached piece of paper from the university which was clearly a registration ticket for a campus visit.  On the ticket, Chuck saw, "Apply within 30 days of your visit, and Snoopy U will waive your $75 application fee!"  The paper was also stamped with Patty's visit date: "08/16/2016".
"Good grief, " thought Chuck. "Even Peppermint Patty needs to apply in September. And even she's being offered merit money," Chuck grumbled. But the more Chuck thought about it, something else seemed to be wrong here. He remembered seeing this piece of paper from Snoopy U last November from several students who applied in the winter. He was surprised that the university was still handing them out to students over the summer. And what kind of scholarship was Patty being considered for, and why? Details were a little shady, and he was a little confused.  Should he be? What should Chuck do?

Discussion:  Although this situation involves one student and one university, there are actually two ethical issues to consider.
First, according to NACAC’s SPGP Mandatory Practice, II B 12, “All postsecondary members agree that they will not establish any application deadlines for first-year candidates for fall admission prior to October 15 and will give equal consideration to all applications received by that date.” In this case, the promise of a free application within 30 days would be a violation, as the expiration deadline, as stamped for the visit date, falls prior to October 15th. Interestingly, when Chuck first saw the form in November of the previous year, the free application would NOT be a violation at that time as the deadline would fall after October 15.

The second question is murkier. According to SPGP Mandatory Practice I B 2, “All members agree that they will not guarantee admission or specific college placement or make guarantees of any institutionally-affiliated financial aid or scholarship awards prior to an application being submitted, except when pre-existing criteria are stated in official publications.”  Was Patty actually guaranteed a scholarship or did she misunderstand the situation? If offered, what is the context? Does Patty meet pre-existing criteria published on the website?  Did the offer of consideration ALSO have an "expiration date" along with the free application offer? Why did Patty have no written details on this particular offer?  Or did she?  To understand whether this might be a violation, these question would have to be explored.

Conclusion:  In this situation, there was a clear violation of SPGP II B 12. Chuck might want to contact Snoopy U to clarify whether the deadline can be extended to October 15. He should also submit a confidential complaint form through the NACAC website so the affiliate AP Committee can contact Snoopy U to help them understand the ethical issues with the early deadline. As to the second issue, Chuck should probably talk to Peppermint Patty to ask some of the questions and learn more about the situation. Then, depending on the answers, he can follow up appropriately.

If you wish to file a complaint, please complete a NACAC Confidential Complaint form. All personal information will be kept confidential, but the information will be forwarded to the appropriate affiliate AP committee. This committee will follow up on the issue. 

Want to review previous case studies?  

View all of the Admissions Practices Case Studies on The Anchor here.

Want to submit a case for consideration? Please e-mail the PCACAC AP Committee Chair at jtalmage@stpaulsschool.org