I want to get a full-fledged position on the Concourse platform Inside higher ed On monday. At the moment, though, honesty forces me to accept a few acknowledgments and a few misconceptions. It can be helpful, or it can be very, very wrong.
The service, apparently, targets students who are applying to relatively unelected four-year colleges. Not to mention community colleges, which I found strange; Students who do not receive offers elsewhere are welcome at Community College, which also tends to be affordable. But it could be a function that colleges have to pay to play.
In any case, the service asks students to fill out anonymous profiles, which are promoted among participating colleges in the Chicago area. I’m drawing something like the NFL Draft, where teams select college players and basically get dubbed on them.
Concours earns its own money from colleges. Students do not pay.
The company tries to say that it performs a matchmaking service, aligning the right students with the right college, even if the students never listen to the colleges in question. For which I say, perhaps. Colleges pay; They are customers. In terms of the students’ knowledge of the institutions in question, the story mentions conversations with admissions representatives. This is something, but the stimulus of the admissions representatives is fairly clear.
After going through the recent admission process for select institutions with The Girl, I can prove that some simple portfolios could have saved a lot of time. The general app was supposed to do this, but several places have added bells and whistles to their applications. I guess its main purpose was to filter out unnecessary applicants. The result, though, was much more work for serious individuals. The worst part, common to many, is the “You type manually in every class, including grades in high school.” I have been told that they do this because the copies take too long to arrive and it is very varied, but this seems to be a solvable problem. We already have a standard nutrition label on packaged foods; How difficult would it be to set a standard for replication?
If a simple portfolio means that a student only needs to enter that information once, I can see the application. And being able to enter the SAT / ACT score at once (though it is) saves the cost of paying for a separate score report for each school visit, which is a particularly inconvenient cost. As the test-optional movement takes root, it may become less relevant, but the cost of reporting the extra score and avoiding the hassle is something.
And Concourse people make a fair point about students being victims of email overload. Email has become an ongoing joke with TG. Spam is a real problem.
That said, Concours is clear about not focusing on more select areas. Instead, it leads students to more accessible places who are willing to pay to be enrolled. So the advantage of avoiding rewriting the transcript half a dozen times is probably unpleasant; Places that students do that are not usually in the target market
Although the article does not spell it out, Concourse seems to be a reaction to market changes over the last decade or so. Now that many colleges have significantly reduced enrollment, potential students are in the driver’s seat (potential). When enrollment was at its peak, colleges could wait for students to come to them. Now, outside of name-brand, this is not true. So Concourse is taking the opportunity to bring the colleges to the students.
Excluding community colleges bothers me, both for obvious reasons and because in many cases, a community college is the best option. I’m also concerned about the pay to play the model, although one could easily argue that the status quo effectively pays for the game. Depending on how popular Concourse (or a similar platform) is, it could increase its rate for colleges with the underlying threat that if colleges don’t pony up, their enrollment will suffer. Intermediary motivation is different and distinct from both college and student. If it is strong enough, it can collect significant rents for the loss of all. The necessity of introducing increasing profits can encourage some beautiful predatory behavior over time.
Still, I have to admit that I am fascinated. Market power has shifted to a place where there is room for something like this. If it is ethically driven, it can help some students who do not know the higher ad world very well to discover alternatives that they did not know. At least for me, the jury remains out.
* The NFL metaphor seems to go further. “We’re going to give you a low science major and two business majors for a third round draft pick.” “I was the student whose name will be mentioned later …”