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Let Competition, Not Law, Determine Who Gets Into Harvard: New at Reason

The most sensible and effective way to police private college admissions practices isn’t litigation or regulation, but competition.

Xinhua/Sipa USA/NewscomXinhua/Sipa USA/NewscomThe most telling development in the opening week of the court case putting Harvard College admissions on trial may have happened entirely outside the federal courthouse.

That was the announcement, timed exquisitely to coincide with the trial's opening day, that Stephen Schwarzman would give $350 million to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to create a new "MIT Schwarzman College of Computing."

As a Philadelphia high school student in the 1960s, Schwarzman had wanted to go to Harvard College but didn't get in, despite a post-rejection appeal call to the then-dean. He ended up going to Yale. Yale in 2015 announced its own $150 million gift from Schwarzman, prompting a wry New York Times op-ed by Michael Lewis about how Harvard needed to do better at picking winners. Schwarzman also has put $600 million—more than $100 million of his own money and another $500 million he is far along in raising—toward Schwarzman College and the Schwarzman Scholars program at Tsinghua University in Beijing.

Last month Harvard Business School, from which Schwarzman graduated in 1972, did announce a $5 million gift from the Blackstone founder, whose fortune is estimated by the Bloomberg Billionaires Index at about $13 billion. The Harvard Business School gift, in other words, is 1/70 of what he gave MIT. Another possible way to look at it, totaling up the Yale, MIT, and Tsinghua sums, is that Harvard's decision not to admit Stephen Schwarzman was a $1.1 billion mistake.

Schwarzman's gift to MIT was only the most recent in a series of reminders that Harvard exists in a higher education landscape that is highly competitive, from Cambridge to New Haven to China, writes Ira Stoll.

Photo Credit: Xinhua/Sipa USA/Newscom

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