The Cavalier Daily
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Online bidding belittles college quest

THEY DON'T mention that to get an education you actually have to spend four years at an institution about which they provide you no information. They can only help you get admitted. Nonetheless, eCollegebid has cropped up on the Internet advertising itself as the place "where you bid for a college education."

ECollegebid offers students the opportunity to apply to member colleges with the only salient information required being grade point average, SAT scores, and the amount one's family is willing to pay for college. By removing any semblance of individuality from the college admissions process, eCollegebid is sending a dangerous message to college applicants and current college students alike - who you are doesn't matter as long as you can pay enough and your numbers add up.

Considering the message being sent and the attitude behind it, eCollegebid should change its slogan to "Where you bid for resume fodder." Just as college should be more than a means to a comfortable salary, students are more than numbers and dollar signs.

Admissions essays and personal statements afford applicants the opportunity to express themselves in ways that standardized test scores and grades can't. Omitting these things does a disservice to the students and to the colleges that admit them.

Granted, some schools don't require these things and already admit students solely on the strength of their numbers. What eCollegebid purports to do, however, further corrupts this process. By charging member colleges $2,000 for access to submitted applications, they are seeking to profit from the inability of schools to fill their rolls by traditional methods.

ECollegebid describes its potential member colleges as "mostly private colleges that are not 'household names' and do not often make the 'rankings' found in the popular media." As eCollegebid does not offer applicants the opportunity to see what schools are members before applying, many will be admitted knowing nothing of the schools they have been admitted to. Surely, the retention rate of these students will be lower than that of students who researched and became interested in these schools. This is not a good thing for schools that already are seeking out alternative means to make ends meet. This says nothing, however, of the harm the business threatens to do students.

If students accept the offers of schools they never have heard of based on the availability of financial aid, many will end up misplaced and unhappy. Under the heading of "College Advice," eCollegebid offers the following: "Q. What's worse than not getting into the 'right college?' A. Getting into the wrong college." What's worse than that is getting into the wrong college you know nothing about.

Another gem filed by eCollegebid under "College Advice" is, "Some college admission offices really do read those application essays and some don't. The problem is you don't know which is which." Some colleges foster the intellectual growth of students and others essentially sell them a degree. The trouble is, eCollegebid isn't going to tell you which is which.

ECollegebid's problems go beyond the potentially dire concrete consequences - they lie in the more abstract consequences of the idea it sets forth. eCollegebid is based on the assumption that a college education is more of a commodity than an experience; that it is something that can be bought and sold in a marketplace. If that's so, why maintain the pretenses of education? Just sell the degree itself.

Though it may simply be an issue of semantics, the thought of "bidding" on a college education is apt to disgust some people. Is one to assume then, that in some cases admission will go to the highest bidder? This is a dangerous precedent for schools to set -particularly in the midst of an ongoing discussion about higher education's availability to those of lower socioeconomic status.

This service might be useful for those worried about financing a college education if it simply matched the economic needs of students and colleges. This could save students money they would spend applying to schools that are well out of their price range. It would also save college admission boards the time and effort of reading these students' applications. By serving as an application for admission, however, eCollegebid has the potential to harm schools and students at a great profit.

(Chris DelGrosso's column appears Mondays in The Cavalier Daily.)

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