Generative AI poses risks for university and school entry screening

September 3, 2023
AI teaching

As AI technology integrates into our daily lives, educational institutions face a complex dilemma. 

Rick Clark, the Executive Director of Undergraduate Admission at Georgia Institute of Technology, alongside his team, recently went undercover as high school students. 

They used AI chatbots like ChatGPT to simulate the college application process, aiming to explore the potential impact of such technology on admissions.

Clark described the inevitable reach of AI into the education sector, saying, “Students on some level are going to have access to and use A.I. The big question is: How do we want to direct them, knowing that it’s out there and available to them?”

These tools have the capacity to democratize access to essay writing help, leveling the playing field for students who may not have access to the same resources as their wealthier counterparts. 

This situation comes at a turning point for US higher education. A recent Supreme Court ruling made race-based admissions illegal, meaning schools and universities can no longer consider someone’s race in their selection process. As such, schools will likely lean more on other screening processes, such as personal essays. 

According to Lee Coffin, the Dean of Admissions at Dartmouth College, personal essays could be threatened by the use of AI. 

“The idea that this central component of a story could be manufactured by someone other than the applicant is disheartening,” he remarked in a university podcast.

A recent study found that ChatGPT equals or exceeds student performance in nine out of 32 university subjects.

Lacking clarity

Universities are grappling with formalizing policies on the matter. The University of Michigan Law School has warned against using such technology, while Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law says it’s acceptable as long as it’s used responsibly. 

It’s similar in the UK, where several top universities released a joint statement on AI to outline when it is and isn’t acceptable. 

Georgia Tech has found a middle ground. After an internal review, they encouraged students to utilize AI collaboratively to “brainstorm, refine, and edit” ideas while warning against copy-pasting generated content directly into applications.

Clark optimistically stated, “It’s free, it’s accessible and it’s helpful. It’s progress toward equity.”

However, this doesn’t ease the minds of many students who are unsure whether they’re allowed to use AI for their work and to what extent.

Kevin Jacob from the Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science, and Technology remarked, “The vagueness and ambiguity is kind of hard for us.”

Clearly, AI’s role in education is fraught with ethical and practical dilemmas.

As AI evolves, educational institutions must find a balanced approach that maximizes the benefits while minimizing the risks.

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Sam Jeans

Sam is a science and technology writer who has worked in various AI startups. When he’s not writing, he can be found reading medical journals or digging through boxes of vinyl records.

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