Winona-MSC-Southeast-LogosIn March 2019, news broke of a major college admissions scandal, in which wealthy parents bribed a path for their sons and daughters into elite institutions.

Like most Americans, we are appalled. But as local leaders in higher education, we are also indignant, thinking of all the students who were not treated fairly in their pursuit of a degree.

At Minnesota State College Southeast and Winona State University, we know our students have been afforded equal opportunities on their path to a degree. And we know this because our employees at MSC Southeast and WSU work hard to ensure that admissions processes are fair and transparent.

At MSC Southeast, admissions are “open,” meaning that anyone with a high school diploma can enroll. This means almost anyone at any point in their life can reinvent themselves and work towards a better future.

At Winona State, there are two main criteria for admissions: high school grade point average in a college-prep curriculum and ACT score. Students with a 3.0 GPA and an ACT score of 21 or higher will be admitted, and there is an appeal process for those with extenuating circumstances.

In contrast, admissions processes at “elite” institutions capitalize on scarcity. They receive upwards of 40,000 applications annually—many with perfect high school grades and perfect scores on the SAT or ACT—and admit only a fraction of applicants. For example, last year Yale and Stanford admitted 6.7 percent and 5 percent of applicants, respectively.

Admissions processes at “elite” institutions are designed to find additional factors that would tip the scale in someone’s favor. Those factors might include varsity-level athletic ability, a well-written admissions essay, or being a “legacy” – which means a close relative also attended that school. It was these additional factors that were exploited in the “Varsity Blues” admissions scandal.

The good news about all of this? Most successful people don’t go to one of the 10 or 20 most selective “elite” institutions. Lots of happy, prosperous leaders graduate from Cal State Fresno or UC Davis – and MSC Southeast or Winona State too! Just look around Winona and you will see them.

The best way to get into college remains the old-fashioned way: study hard and get good grades. Merit, not money, should be the path, and ethical behavior should be the light that illuminates it.

At Minnesota State College Southeast and Winona State University, we are proud to serve middle class and working class students. We are proud that our tuition is affordable. We see ourselves as the portal to the American Dream. Therefore, we ensure that our admissions process reflects this mission, and is fair and transparent.


Larry Lundblad, President – Minnesota State College Southeast
Scott R. Olson, President – Winona State University