excited to see that CA will vote this month on repealing a ban on affirmative action (in other words, re-legalizing affirmative action). the timing coudn't be better... *gestures vaguely at the world outside my window*

i'm ashamed to say that i voted for the ban in the 1990s. the news back then was full of stories of local (white) kids not getting into state colleges, because CA colleges had become very competitive. (1/2)

i now see we were solving the wrong problem. they turned state colleges into a wedge by creating artificial scarcity, turning it into a zero-sum game where someone has to "lose".

we should instead expand colleges so that everyone who wants to go, can. expand the pool instead of turning us against each other.

(it's also dumb for the state to dictate what criteria the schools have to use for admissions, but that's almost beside the point.)


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@robey I encountered two strategies that can help with expanding college capacity:

What every university could do is to push really hard topics into the first year of the curriculum, and use that to weed out weaker students instead of using whatever criteria they make up to solve the pigeon hole problem. Universities here tend to do that with their maths degrees, and so there's a rather crowded lecture hall in the first year, followed by pretty cozy group sizes later on - but everybody can get their shot at it. (that approach works best when education is affordable: that first year costs $500, maybe, which you can more easily afford to lose than the 5-digits-per-year costs I've heard of in the US - although those seem to include room and board?)

The other strategy is to have remote options: I'm enrolled (and work as a TA) at a public distance learning university, and it's the largest university in my country by student count - among other reasons that's because it provides unlimited access to degree programs that are highly restricted practically everywhere else for capacity reasons (think requiring near-4.0-GPA-equivalent grades). Doesn't work for everything (e.g. it's hard to provide lab access) but when it works, combined with the weeding-out strategy, it's massively scalable.

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@patrick yeah the 2nd strategy is pretty exciting, because it's long overdue, and the schools are being forced into it by the pandemic -- so they can't drag their feet any longer

my mom is a university professor and she loves it, she can teach from her home and get her "classroom" (whiteboards and cams) set up just the way she likes, for any number of students

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