Daniel Golden is a senior editor at ProPublica. He was previously the Deputy Bureau Chief at the Boston bureau of The Wall Street Journal, and a reporter at the Boston Globe. The recipient of numerous journalistic honors and awards, including the Pulitzer Prize and the George Polk Award, he holds a B.A. from Harvard College. He lives with his wife and son in Belmont, Massachusetts.
A heavy-hitting, name-naming expos? by Wall Street Journal deputy bureau chief Golden concludes that Ivy League admissions offices do not practice meritocracy. Instead, top-drawer schools reward donor-happy alums and the "legacy establishment," which Golden defines as "elites mastering the art of perpetuating themselves." Moreover, the "preference of privilege" enables wealthy candidates to nose out more deserving working- and middle-class students, especially new immigrants and Asian-Americans. Golden backs his assertions with examples comparing the academic records of entering students: e.g., Al Gore's son was admitted to Harvard despite his shabby record, although a better prepared Asian-American was rejected at all Ivy Leagues because he was "unhooked" (in admission parlance, not well connected or moneyed). Asian-Americans, notes Golden, are the "new Jews," for whom a higher bar is set. Golden tracks shameful admissions policies at Duke, where the enrollment of privileged but underqualified applicants has helped elevate the school's endowment ranking from 25th in 1980 to 16th in 2005; Brown is skewered for courting the offspring of entertainment industry notables. Golden suggests reasonable, workable tactics for resurrecting the antilegacy campaign in Congress (led by Senator Kennedy) and devotes a laudatory chapter to the equitable admissions practices at Caltech, Berea College (Kentucky) and Cooper Union (New York City). (Sept.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
"A delicious account of gross inequities in high places. . . .
[Golden] is the Ida Tarbell of college admissions. . . . A
fire-breathing, righteous attack on the culture of
-Michael Wolff, New York Times Book Review
"Deserves to become a classic. . . . Why do Mr Golden's findings
matter so much? The most important reason is that America is
witnessing a potentially explosive combination of trends. Social
inequality is rising at a time when the escalators of social
mobility are slowing."
"I was bowled over by The Price of Admission. Daniel Golden makes a frightening case for why the playing field in higher education is still not level, despite all the attempts during the past several decades to make it so. This book is essential reading for anyone connected with higher education." -Henry Louis Gates, Jr., W.E.B. Du Bois Professor of the Humanities, Harvard
"I didn't want to believe that rich families and celebrities buy
places for their children in America's best colleges. But Daniel
Golden's evidence is overwhelming. This book should be read by
everyone who cares about preserving higher education as a route for
developing talent, not rewarding privilege."
-Diane Ravitch, research professor of education, New York University, and author of Left Back
"If you did not attend or do not teach at a prestigious
university, do not play polo well enough to pass it on, and do not
have a cool million lying around to buy a place in the freshman
class, your child might not make it into the school he or she
deserves to attend. Daniel Golden explains why in this passionately
written and bitingly acute book."
-Alan Wolfe, professor of political science, Boston College, and author of One Nation, After All
"Daniel Golden makes a trenchant and convincing case that
admission to America's elite universities has too often turned into
a system for reinforcing wealth and privilege, rather than opening
new opportunities. He names names--and test scores, and family
donation levels. In the wake of this book, the university
establishment has some explaining to do."
-James Fallows, national correspondent, The Atlantic Monthly, and author of Blind into Baghdad
"Anyone who believes that affirmative action for minority
students is the big threat to college admissions by merit should
confront Golden's evidence that most elite colleges show much
larger preferences for the privileged and the connected. I hope the
book helps move colleges toward more equitable practices."
--Gary Orfield, professor of education and social policy, Harvard Graduate School of Education
"Daniel Golden pulls back the curtain on the world of selective
college admissions, where the already privileged are the truly
preferred. With vigorous prose and artful anecdotes, Golden tells a
chilling story of double standards and double crossings. He reminds
us that when elite college admissions go to the highest bidders, we
all pay the price."
-Lani Guinier, Bennett Boskey Professor, Harvard Law School, and author of Lift Every Voice
"If you or your child is applying to a selective college this
year, here's a reading assignment: Pick up a copy of The Price of
Admission, a new book by Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel
Golden. It'll either give you a useful view into how the elite
admissions game works or just leave you disgusted about the whole
enterprise. Actually, probably both. Mr. Golden's subject is the
root unfairness in the way elite colleges choose who wins the
coveted spots in their freshman classes. . . . Mr. Golden, himself
a Harvard alum, details the ways colleges chase after the children
of the rich and powerful, like paparazzi pursuing Paris
-Joshua Benton, Dallas Morning News
"An important new book. . . . With clarity and moral force,
Golden shows that our greatest universities have been sacrificing
their highest ideals on behalf of base pursuits unworthy of their
"The Price of Admission is perfect for those
curious about what goes on in college admissions offices because it
shatters assumptions about acceptance to elite colleges. . . .
The Price of Admission forces the reader to wonder how
affirmative action can be deemed controversial when favoritism of
the white and wealthy is overly prominent in elite colleges. . . .
[F]or those interested in the injustices in higher education, this
book is a must-read."
-Kansas City Star
"[Golden's] book arose from a series of investigative
articles written for the Journal about how the wealthy, the famous,
and the well-connected receive preferential treatment in getting
their kids into elite colleges. Golden's goal, which he achieves
with an overwhelming amount of solid evidence gleaned from two
years of tireless research, is to spotlight 'a reality elite
universities pretend doesn't exist - that money and connections are
increasingly tainting college admissions, undermining both its
credibility and value to American democracy.' . . . Who suffers in
all this? Golden calls them 'the unhooked, ' middle- and
lower-income students who might have outstanding academic records
or tremendous potential but who get squeezed out because their
families aren't rich, famous, or politically connected. At elite
colleges, admissions is 'a zero-sum game, ' says Golden, and
self-congratulatory rhetoric about level playing fields and
socioeconomic diversity runs up against the reality that 'a large
proportion of slots at these universities are reserved for the
rich.' So, in higher education, as in politics, access to
healthcare and so much else in America, money talks. And, as the
gap widens between the haves and the have-nots, money shouts. If
you're 'shocked' by this, you haven't been paying close
"Golden has fun making trouble in the best journalistic
sense. . . . The Price of Admission is a powerful reminder that the
public will increasingly require selective colleges to defend their
preferences; that not all are prepared to make their complex case
well; and that some of their practices, finally, seem indefensible
From the Hardcover edition.