Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore ethical challenges and dilemmas that exist within admissions systems at colleges and universities in the USA. Design/methodology/approach – Although the issues considered herein are examined primarily from the perspective of admissions officers, this paper also considers the viewpoint of prospective students (and their parents) who are seeking to gain entrance to specific institutions of higher education. The ethical concerns of admissions officers and prospective students within the admissions process is explored through conceptual analysis of a trilogy of ethical concerns and arguments regarding the higher education admissions process in the USA. Findings – Part I of the trilogy explores the admissions profession as a calling, discusses some of the ethical issues currently involved in the admissions field, and makes the argument that most of these ethical issues are rooted in a breakdown of the admissions system in two areas – access and trust. Part II of the trilogy focuses on the ethical pressures that are encountered by various types of post‐secondary educational institutions as the admissions process unfolds. These pressures are examined in the context of an ethical typology that describes the admissions practices of colleges and universities in terms of the congruency between their espoused and enacted values. The degree of congruency between espoused and enacted values defines whether the admissions process is viewed as immoral, pseudo‐moral, or moral – and each view has important implications for the efficacy and fairness of college and university admissions. Part III of the trilogy examines three categories of ethical dilemmas – recruiting, personal biases in admissions decisions, and conflicts between personal ethical standards and institutional directives – that confront admissions officers on a daily basis. The implications of these dilemmas are considered relative to three general types of schools: ultra selective colleges and universities, non‐selective private colleges and universities, and large state‐funded public colleges and universities. Originality/value – The admission systems at colleges and universities in the USA provide fertile ground for the development of ethical challenges and dilemmas regarding which prospective students will gain entry into which academic institutions. Recognizing these ethical challenges and dilemmas and effectively dealing with them is a professional imperative for admissions officers and the academic institutions they represent. Conceptualizing the ethical challenges of admissions within the context of access and trust provides an innovative approach guiding admissions professionals toward moral decisions and actions regarding who is admitted to their respective institutions.
International Journal of Educational Management – Emerald Publishing
Published: Sep 18, 2009
Keywords: Ethics; Trust; Organizational behaviour; Universities; Admissions; United States of America
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