“For most of its history, Ravenwood has prided, and marketed, itself as a progressive, alternative institution, but Mr. Posecznick observes that the niche it has carved out for itself has also shackled it.”
“It could not pitch itself as elite, because that would ring hollow and in any case would create expectations it could not meet. Nor could it afford to back away from its unusual historical identity, because that was its only competitive advantage. Any talk of changing mission provoked outcry from faculty members, students, and alumni, as well as anonymous posters to a blog who spoke of the college as a ‘sham’ business whose degrees were regarded skeptically by employers. Mr. Posecznick said: ‘If you’re a niche institution, then you are by definition going to appeal to a smaller crowd; however if you want to grow and expand, and move beyond that, you have to appeal to a larger crowd, and then you’re no longer a niche institution.’
“A core theme of Mr. Posecznick’s book is that colleges play a key role in racial and socioeconomic ‘sorting’ in American life, and have done so since the earliest days of American higher education. Which students are worthy of being promoted as ‘elites’ who are granted many privileges? Which may be consigned to also-ran status?”
-Peter Monaghan, National Correspondent, The Chronicle of Higher Education. (2017, August 4). Inside the Struggle of a Less Selective College. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Washington DC.