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Should colleges be using ‘adversity index’ for admissions?

(File photo by Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images)

Complaining about one’s background is a national American pastime — now, students can have a score to go along with it. The University of Washington is one of 50 schools nationwide to use a new tool colloquially referred to as a “adversity index” that measures the level of adversity a student faced as part of their application process.

Factors like neighborhood crime rate, neighborhood median income, and the amount of people in the area who have college degrees or own homes are measured, among several other factors, reports The Seattle Times.

“The adversity index will allow them to say, ‘Well, we’re going to talk about race without actually calling it race,” said KIRO Radio’s John Curley. “It really eliminates the individuality … it asks about school, it asks about neighborhood, and then it just makes a bunch of assumptions based upon that. They never really talk to the individuals.”

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“You don’t know if he has a mother and a father in the house. But the mom’s got cancer and the dad works three jobs in order to pay for the mom’s cancer treatment.”

Since some critics believe that standardized admissions testing is biased against minorities, they perceive the adversity index as a tactic colleges are using to offset that perception and deflect criticism, while increasing diversity. More than 1,000 colleges nationwide have moved away from standardized testing, and tools like the adversity index are seen as a way to provide additional context to a prospective student’s grades.

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“Ideally the more you know, the better,” said co-host Tom Tangney, “and this gives you more data because right now the only data point we have is a GPA and an SAT score.”

Listen to the Tom and Curley Show weekday mornings from 9 a.m. to noon on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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