Yes, elite colleges are biased against poor whites
(Ya gotta click and read from the link before this post will make sense).
It seems to me that the entire response from Espenshade is dishonest. Success in groups such as 4-H indicates that a person is likely to be grounded in reality and possess a level of maturity that might be lacking in their peers.
It is precisely this that makes such applicants undesirable from the standpoint of these universities. A student who knows who they are and has some idea of how the world works will be resistant to indoctrination and also undermine the university's efforts to indoctrinate others.
To describe these groups as merely "career oriented" and then claim that success within one might indicate someone is unserious about their education is completely dishonest. It takes independent initiative and diligence to succeed in such groups, which are precisely the qualities necessary to succeed in any endeavour, including academically. Show me a student who is intrinsically motivated to work harder, who does not give up in the face of hardship, and I'll show you a student who will succeed.
This is also perhaps part of why such students are not desired by these universities. When individual character, effort, and merit are on full display, it is difficult to convince someone that their fate is bound by the color of their skin or the contents of their family's bank account.
Also lets not forget that the ONLY reason why anyone with a clue pursues higher education is to have a better career. That better career might not pay more than another they would have had otherwise, but it is a career that they prefer and for which education is a prerequisite. To complain about students being "career oriented" patently insane. That's like GM complaining about its potential customers being "car oriented." Cars are what GM sells, and career enhancing education is what universities sell. Students don't go to college to bask in the pontifications of tenured radicals, they go to learn what they need to know to pursue the career they desire.
Academics lie when they pretend the classes they teach that do not directly contribute to a person's career are somehow valuable. Predictably those academics with the least useful subjects to teach are the ones who most vocally cry for the value of these useless subjects for making a person "well rounded" or contributing to the "college experience." They're useless liars. Luckily for us they're also the least well paid of all academics.