06/23/2010 05:34 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

More Colleges Engaging In A 'Race For Prestige,' Report Says

In 12 years, the number of "most competitive" and "highly competitive" colleges increased from 146 to 193, according to a new book.

A chapter of the book, called "Rewarding Strivers: Helping Low-Income Students Succeed in College," analyzes the way college admissions have changed in the past decade.

The Washington Post reports on the morphing boundaries:

A "most competitive" college tends to admit less than one-third of applicants, reports median SAT scores between 1310 and 1600 and pulls students in the top 10 to 20 percent of their class. "Highly competitive" schools have admission rates below 50 percent, median SAT scores above 1240 and students in at least the top one-third of their class.

While that group has swelled, the list of "less competitive" and noncompetitive colleges has dwindled from 429 in 1994 to 299 in 2006. These are schools with median SAT scores below the national average that accept most or all applicants and take students with C or D averages.

Anthony Carnevale and Jeff Strohl, the researchers behind the chapter, write that colleges are carrying out a "self-defeating race for prestige" and fetishizing test scores. The Post's Daniel De Vise concludes that the more rigid requirements for entry "guarantee that students who enroll at an Ivy League school will see a great many wealthy people and a very few poor people studying beside them."

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