If "dormitory fedder is not to be obtained by legitimate methods, the colleges are prepared to use gangster methods," John R. Tunis, a world's authority on tennis, charges in an article titled "Solling Scholarship Short" appearing in the current Scribners' magazine.
Tunis, who is best known to Harvard readers as the author of "Was College Worth While?" based, he said, on reports from members of the Class of 1911, declares in his article, that the whole problem of getting students boils down to this: "There aren't enough clients to go around, and a wild scramble for students has been the result." The competition between colleges has in fact, Tunis declares, become so intense that prospective students are being bribed, bought, and even kidnapped in order to build enrollments. A case in Indiana is reported where three students were transported to another campus and there offered such inducements that they immediately signed for the kidnapping college.
One of the worst features of this unhealthy and undignified competition for students, Tunis continues, is that many of the smaller colleges now are developing for better sales forces than teaching staffs. Nearly all have "recruiting agents," or "Directors of personnel" who receive flat commissions on each student brought in. Often small scholarships are offered as an inducement to get the student into the college and then bills are sent in for extra fees which exactly make up the amount of the scholarship.
Harvard escapes with clean hands from Mr. Tunis' wholesale charges, inasmuch as this University rejects hundreds of applicants annually. His wrath falls particularly upon the smaller colleges of the mid-West and South, and those schools specializing in advertising-agency prepared catalogues. These booklets, "slick-looking volumes on glazed paper with expensive cuts and pictures" are a "significant commentary on education in the United States," according to Mr. Tunis
"Will someone please explain to a bewildered layman what all this has to do with education?" asks Mr. Tunis in conclusion. "No wonder President Hutchins of Chicago observes that the American colleges today offer fresh air, green grass, good food and exercise, exactly the same as the resort hotels.
"Supported by literature of this sort, the field agent is far more likely to point out what a good time the student will have at his institution, than to stress its educational advantages, if any. A few colleges actually do employ men as counselors instead of high-pressure salesmen. The agent of Stephens College, Missouri, acts not so much to get students as to keep the wrong ones from entering. No hospital attempts to minister to all patients. If the colleges would select carefully those who fit into the purposes of the institution rather than signing up everyone who presents himself, the field agent could play a helpful part. When he tries to find out what the candidate wants, what he is fitted for, and advises him as to the kind of place he should enter, he is assisting not only the boy but also the college and higher education.
"The student who might do well at Yale might not do well at Baylor and vice versa. In the midst of the claims and shouting of hundreds of colleges and universities, the undergraduate-to-be, and his parents, need advice, guidance, and information more than ever. The field agent who furnished this disinterested advice, who visits the boy's home and finds out whether he really is college material would be invaluable.
"Recruiting for brains is one thing. Recruiting for the band or the football team or for the advertisement of the college is quite another. When the work of a college representative in the field is honest, when it is guidance, and not exploitation, he has a useful function to perform. But the evidence is plain, beyound dispute--only too often has recruiting degenerated into attempts to fill the beds in the dormitories by any means, fair or foul."