Statistics from the 2018 America’s Best Colleges
by U.S. News & World Report for 2016-17 freshman class.
|School||% accepted||total applicants||number accepted||% Asian-Am. in student body|
Dropped from 30% in 1993 to 14% in 2018. Stop donating.
|U. of Chicago||7.937||31,484||2,499||18|
|U.S. Naval Academy||7.95||17,043||1,355||7|
|U. of Pennsylvania||9.440||38,918||3,674||21|
|U.S. Military Academy||9.66||14,829||1,433||6|
|Cooper Union||No info||No info||No info||No info|
9/29/18 South China Morning Post: “Lawsuit accusing Harvard of bias against Asian-Americans heads to trial [October 15]”
9/26/18 Forbes: “Yale Is Under Federal Investigation For Alleged Discrimination Against Asian-Americans”
9/26/18 Politico: “Trump administration probes complaint that Yale discriminates against Asian-Americans”
9/24/18 Inside Higher Education: “The 2018 Surveys of Admissions Leaders: The Pressure Grows”
Almost half of college admissions directors said they believe some colleges hold Asian American applicants to higher standards for admission than they hold other applicants.
Thirty-nine percent of admissions directors said that, at their college, Asian American applicants who are admitted have higher grades and test scores than do other admitted applicants.
9/20/18 Quora: “Why does Harvard rate Asian Americans low on personality traits?”
9/20/18 The College Fix: “Harvard requests its past history of anti-Semitism be ignored in Asian-American discrimination case”
9/19/18 Duke Chronicle: “No Asians need apply?”
9/19/18 The Daily Californian: “UC Berkeley diversity plan sparks criticism from Asian American advocacy group”
9/14/18 The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Will Students Testify in the Case Against Harvard’s Race-Conscious Admissions Procedures?”
9/14/18 Savannah Morning News (Washington Post): “Before Asian Americans sued Harvard, the school tried restricting the number of Jews”
8/30/18 Wall Street Journal: “Justice Department Says Harvard Hurts Asian Americans’ Admissions Prospects With ‘Personal Rating’; Government calls rating ‘vague and elusory’ in filing in closely-watched affirmative-action lawsuit”
The U.S. Department of Justice says Harvard University puts Asian-American applicants at a disadvantage through the school’s use of a subjective “personal rating” in the admissions process, according to a new court filing in a federal lawsuit challenging the legality of affirmative action.
The statement of interest filed Thursday by the Justice Department supported the claims made by the plaintiffs, who have sued Harvard for allegedly limiting the number of Asian-American students it admits and holding them to a higher standard than students of other races.
In criticizing the personal rating, the Justice Department was referring to one component of Harvard’s undergraduate admissions process that evaluates applicants based, in part, on a subjective assessment of character traits.
Lawyers for the Justice Department said the personal rating reflects racial stereotypes that Asian-American applicants are less “likeable” and hurts their chances of admission despite their higher academic ratings.
“The vague and elusory ‘personal rating’ may be infected with racial bias against Asian Americans,” the Justice Department wrote in the filing.
The government said in the filing that Harvard acknowledged it tends to score Asian-American applicants lower on the personal rating but couldn’t explain why, representing an “intentional and unexplained use of race” in the admissions process. It said the school’s practice defies Supreme Court decisions requiring schools to consider race in a “narrowly tailored” way to achieve diversity.
This summer, the Justice and Education Departments jointly began directing schools to adopt race-neutral admissions standards, reversing Obama-era guidance that encouraged the use of race to promote diversity.
The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has also opened its own investigation into the use of race in Harvard’s admissions practices. A Justice Department official said Thursday that the investigation is still ongoing and could result in a separate lawsuit or administrative proceedings.
The government said in its court filing Thursday it has a “substantial interest” in the lawsuit’s outcome because it could affect the Justice Department’s investigation, as well as the interpretation and scope of multiple federal anti-discrimination laws.
Thursday’s filing also echoed the plaintiffs’ other legal arguments, including that Harvard sets racial quotas and has failed to consider race-neutral alternatives.
The Justice Department said Harvard’s “constant monitoring and manipulation” of the racial makeup of its incoming class—at multiple stages of the admissions process—is akin to illegal racial balancing. The Supreme Court has said universities cannot build a freshman class with specified percentage targets for each racial group, but it has allowed universities to consider race as a factor in admissions to obtain the benefits of a diverse student body.
8/31/18 National Review: “Harvard wants to discriminate among its applicants on racial grounds”
8/30/18 Los Angeles Times: “Read the Justice Department statement supporting Asian American students in their suit against Harvard”
8/30/18 ABC News: “Trump administration backs Asian-Americans in Harvard discrimination case”
8/30/18 Harvard Crimson: “Justice Department Says Harvard Illegally Discriminates Against Asian American Applicants”
8/30/18 Washington Post: “Justice Department criticizes Harvard’s admissions practices in affirmative action case alleging bias against Asian Americans”
8/10/18 Wall Street Journal: “‘Diversity’ Looks a Lot Like Old-Fashioned Discrimination: I was barred from top law firms as a Harvard student in the ’60s. Today Asians face similar prejudice”
By Michael Blechman
Since my experience in 1965, all of the firms at which I had interviewed have overcome their prejudices and now hire and promote Jewish lawyers, as well as women, blacks, Hispanics and Asians. Kaye Scholer became similarly diverse.
Yet as the old kind of discrimination has died out, a new form has emerged—this time under the banner of “diversity.”
A continuing suit against my alma mater is a case in point. According to Students for Fair Admissions, a group representing Asian-American Harvard applicants who have been denied admission, an Asian-American applicant with a 25% chance of admission would, on the very same record, have a 35% chance if he were white and a 95% chance if he were African-American. Furthermore, Harvard’s admissions team has allegedly justified its rejection of qualified Asian-American applicants by giving negative assessments of their character traits. The result, according to the plaintiff, is a de facto quota for Asian-Americans—very much like the express quota of 20% imposed by Harvard on the number of Jews it would admit in the 1920s.
8/5/18 Wall Street Journal: “Harvard’s Education in Discrimination: A lawsuit is revealing the secrets of race in admissions”
By The Editorial Board
Consider Harvard’s “holistic” admissions review. Applicants are rated on a scale of one to six on academics, extracurricular activities, athletics and highly subjective “personal” criteria. Admissions officers also assign applicants an overall score.
According to Students for Fair Admissions, Asian-Americans boasted higher extracurricular and academic ratings than all other racial groups. They also received higher scores from alumni interviewers. But they were rated disproportionately lower on personal criteria. Only about one in five Asian-Americans in the top 10% of academic performers received a “2” personal rating. Yet blacks and Hispanics with much lower grades and SAT scores received high personal ratings.
Asian-Americans also disproportionately received lower composite scores. Blacks in the top 10% of academic performers were three times more likely than Asian-Americans to receive a “2” overall rating (“1” is the best). A sample of applicant summary sheets disproportionately refer to Asian-Americans as “busy and bright” and “standard strong”—labels that liberals might call micro-aggressions.
Following complaints of discrimination, Harvard’s Office of Institutional Research (OIR) in 2013 produced three internal reports showing its admissions process was biased against Asian-Americans. Harvard disclosed the reports during discovery in the lawsuit. One report found that purely “demographic” factors reduced the share of admitted Asian-Americans by 30% while increasing the proportion of admitted Latinos by about 140% and blacks by 370%.
OIR shared its studies with Harvard administrators who did not ask the researchers questions, suggest further investigation or publish the findings. Were administrators unperturbed or merely uninterested?
8/2/18 The College Fix: “Asian-American groups accuse Harvard of killing their children with ‘holistic’ admissions”
8/1/18 Bloomberg: “Harvard Admissions Suit Gets Support From Asian American Groups”
8/1/18 The College Fix: “Economists approve statistical model that finds Harvard discriminates against Asians”
Having reviewed both Arcidiacono’s and Card’s work, the five economists sided with the former’s conclusion that the personal ratings are biased:
Asian-American applicants in the top academic decile are less likely to receive a high personal-rating score than white applicants in the top 50%. This remarkable racial disparity does not appear in the personal ratings given by alumni who actually interview applicants.
Arcidiacono “reasonably concludes” that non-racial factors can’t explain the lower personal-rating scores, they said: Asian-Americans would have a 20 percent better chance of scoring the highest or second-highest personal rating if they were treated the same as whites.
The economists point to “highly suspect patterns in the observed data” as evidence of bias in the personal-rating scores.
“Asian-American applicants clearly outperform other applicants in the academic measures,” and they score similarly to whites on non-academic measures while “generally” performing better than African Americans and Hispanics. They are lower in only two ways: personal rating and athletics.
The low personal ratings stand in contrast to the tendency of applicants with strong academic ratings to also have higher non-academic ratings “across all dimensions, regardless of race,” according to the economists:
Inexplicably, the most academically competitive Asian Americans do much worse in Harvard’s personal-rating score than do academically similar applicants of other races. … In other words, personal-rating scores make the top-performing Asian-American applicants less competitive while making other top-performing applicants more competitive.
Because only applicants with at least the second-highest rating on both the personal and academic scores get admitted, this curtails Asian-American admissions.
The economists also note the curiosity of the racial distribution of the personal scores. Quoting Arcidiacono, they say: “In every academic decile, African Americans have the highest share” of applicants scoring at that second-highest or highest score, “followed by Hispanics, then whites, then Asian Americans.” This suggests Harvard “puts significant weight on race in assigning personal ratings.” . . . . . . . . . .
Both Duke economist Arcidiacono and Harvard’s Office of Institutional Research found that Asians had a strikingly lower admission rate than whites, blacks and Hispanics going back to at least 2007, despite the fact that Asians outscored every other group on the SAT.
Arcidiacono further found the Asian-American admission rate was even lower than the total admission rate, going back to the class of 2000. “This stagnancy” in the Asian share of the Harvard population, between 18 and 21 percent, occurred as the Asian-American population boomed, NAS said.
7/3/18 Tablet: “Race Quotas and Class Privilege at Harvard: Meme Wars: Who gets in, and why?”
7/14/18 Salon: “The fight against affirmative action at Harvard could threaten rich whites”
7/11/18 Minding the Campus: “Harvard, Not Trump, Could Kill Affirmative Action”
7/4/18 Huffington Post: “Why I’ll Still Put ‘Asian’ On College Applications Even If It Costs Me Admission”
7/3/18 The Week: “How and why elite colleges should pass the buck on social justice”
7/1/18 Wall Street Journal: “About Harvard’s Asian-American Applicants”
6/25/18 New York Times: “Harvard Is Wrong That Asians Have Terrible Personalities”
6/25/18 The National Review: “Harvard’s Admissions Bigotry — A Partial Theory”
6/23/18 Harvard Crimson: “Harvard Admissions Officers Specifically Trained on ‘Use of Race’”
6/19/18 New York Post: “Harvard’s secret system to avoid ‘too many Asians’”
6/19/18 The Atlantic: “Harvard’s Impossible Personality Test”
6/19/18 National Review: “Harvard’s Ongoing Anti-Asian-American Micro-Aggression”
6/18/18 Inside HigherEd: “Smoking Gun on Anti-Asian Bias at Harvard? Internal reports, released by those suing the university, show use of personality rankings in ways that hurt Asian applicants’ chances of admission. Under academic criteria only, their numbers would go way up”
By Scott Jaschik
That’s because the documents suggest that Harvard was aware that Asian-Americans are the primary group feeling “negative effects” of various admissions policies. The suit was brought by a group called Students for Fair Admissions, and it charges Harvard with using affirmative action policies that go beyond those legally permitted by several Supreme Court decisions. To the extent that the documents indicate substantially different admissions standards (for academic achievement) for applicants from different racial and ethnic groups, the evidence could be significant. The consideration of personality factors appears to substantially disadvantage Asian-American applicants. . . .
But some of the internal documents Harvard was forced to provide the plaintiffs suggest that Asian applicants may be at a disadvantage even when other factors are considered. Take, for example, low-income status, defined by Harvard as family income less than $60,000 a year. All groups that apply to Harvard are more likely to be admitted if they are from low-income families than from other families. But the rate is lower for Asian-American applicants from low-income families than it is for all other domestic groups. And low-income Asian applicants are less likely to be admitted than are higher-income black applicants, and they are equally likely to be admitted as are higher-income white applicants. . . .
The analysis compared the then-current makeup of the student body with what it would be based on other ways of determining who gets in. An “academics only” policy (focusing on grades and test scores) would have more than doubled the share of the class that was Asian and significantly cut the enrollment levels of black and Latino students. . . .
Peter Arcidiacono, a professor of economics at Duke University, found consistent patterns for the treatment of Asian-American applicants with certain grades, test scores and other factors such that an Asian-American applicant with a 25 percent chance of admission would have a 35 percent chance if he were white, a 75 percent chance if he were Latino, and a 95 percent chance if he were African-American.
The information released by the plaintiffs suggests that they are making the case that Harvard has a two-tiered (or multiple-tiered) admissions process in which Asian-Americans are evaluated in different (more stringent) ways. That is significant because it would run counter to what the Supreme Court has permitted — which is holistic review in which race and ethnicity are considered, but only as part of an in-depth review considering many factors, in which students of all groups have a fair shot. In other words, the Supreme Court is not bothered by an applicant from an underrepresented minority group being admitted over another applicant with higher grades and test scores. But both must be evaluated under essentially the same system.
Another part of the Supreme Court’s guidance on affirmative action that the plaintiffs are applying to Harvard is the requirement that institutions that want to consider race or ethnicity in admissions or other decisions first consider whether race-neutral approaches might yield sufficient levels of diversity. On this issue, the plaintiffs submitted a brief by Richard D. Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation and a long-standing advocate of using class-based affirmative action rather than race-based affirmative action.
Kahlenberg wrote that he provided Harvard with approaches — rejected by the university — that would have kept much (but not all) of the current enrollment levels of black and Latino students while increasing the enrollment of low-income students. He said that this could be done several ways, either by explicitly considering economic status but not race, or through “place-based” affirmative action, in which preference would be granted to those who live in disadvantaged neighborhoods. . . .
Robert Zimmer, president of the University of Chicago, was concerned by the idea that “definitions of character” or evaluating personalities would result in candidates of superior academic quality being rejected. He noted that for much of the first half of the 20th century, “these character issues and definitions of character were put in place to keep Jews out of Ivy League institutions.” And he said that if colleges evaluate personality characteristics, they should “constantly” ask why they are favoring certain characteristics over others.
6/18/18 USA Today: “Why is Harvard discriminating against Asian Americans? ‘Diversity’ is no excuse for racial bias”
Glenn Reynolds, Opinion columnist
We’ve decided that doling out opportunity on the basis of race is wrong. Even when it changes an institution’s ‘character.’ Even when Harvard does it.
I wrote four years ago that it looked as if Asian applicants to Harvard were getting the “Jewish treatment” — that is, being subjected to quotas, and rated down on “soft” qualifications, so as to keep their numbers lower than their objective qualifications would warrant. This is what Ivy League schools did to Jewish applicants for much of the 20th century, because Jewish applicants were seen as boring grinds who studied too hard, and whose parents weren’t rich enough or connected enough to contribute to the schools’ flourishing.
6/18/18 The Hill: “Time for racism at Harvard and our American education system to end”
6/18/18 USA Today: “Why is Harvard discriminating against Asian Americans? ‘Diversity’ is no excuse for racial bias”
6/17/18 New York Post: “The stunning evidence of Harvard’s racism”
6/16/18 CNN: “Lawsuit: Harvard ranks Asian-Americans lower on personality traits”
6/15/18 Bloomberg: “Harvard Study Found Asian-American Admissions Bias, Suit Claims”
By Patricia Hurtado, Janelle Lawrence, and Sydney Maki
Harvard University’s own researchers found statistical evidence that its undergraduate application process discriminated against Asian-American applicants, yet its admissions officials ignored the results and took no action, a group suing for bias claimed.
In 2013, the Harvard Office of Institutional Research said that Asian-Americans should comprise 43.4 percent of the admitted class if they were judged purely on their academic merit, the organization, Students for Fair Admissions, said in a federal court filing Friday.
Asian-Americans should have made up 26 percent of the student body, even after accounting for the Ivy League school’s preferences for the children of alumni and recruited athletes and the university’s more subjective “personal ratings,” the Harvard office found, according to the plaintiff’s court filing.
Students for Fair Admissions, which filed suit in 2014, told a federal judge in Boston on Friday that these findings are part of the “incontrovertible” evidence that the university has “engineered the admissions process to achieve” illegal goals. The organization says that Asian-Americans are subject to the same kind of quotas that kept many Jews out of Ivy League colleges in the first half of the 20th century — and the Trump administration has indicated it is sympathetic to their argument.
The group’s lawyers also said Harvard engages in “racial balancing,’’ to ensure a minimum percentage of students from minority groups. Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Princeton and other elite schools hold what are called “round robin’’ meetings where they share nonpublic information about the racial compositions of their class, according to the lawsuit. Harvard’s admissions office examines these kinds of racial breakdowns as it fine-tunes its admissions decisions, the complaint says.
6/15/18 New York Times: “Harvard Rated Asian-American Applicants Lower on Personality Traits, Lawsuit Says”
By Anemona Hartocollis
Harvard consistently rated Asian-American applicants lower than any other race on personal traits like “positive personality,” likability, courage, kindness and being “widely respected,” according to an analysis of more than 160,000 student records filed Friday in federal court in Boston by a group representing Asian-American students in a lawsuit against the university.
Asian-Americans scored higher than applicants of any other racial or ethnic group on admissions measures like test scores, grades and extracurricular activities, according to the analysis commissioned by a group that opposes all race-based admissions criteria. But the students’ personal ratings significantly dragged down their chances of being admitted, the analysis found.
“It turns out that the suspicions of Asian-American alumni, students and applicants were right all along,” the group, Students for Fair Admissions, said in a court document laying out the analysis. “Harvard today engages in the same kind of discrimination and stereotyping that it used to justify quotas on Jewish applicants in the 1920s and 1930s.”
Harvard’s own researchers cited a bias against Asian-American applicants in a series of internal reports in 2013. But Harvard ignored the findings, the court papers said, and never publicly released them.
6/15/18 Reuters: “Harvard records show discrimination against Asian-Americans: group”
by Nate Raymond
BOSTON (Reuters) – Harvard University killed an internal investigation in 2013 that found evidence the Ivy League school’s admissions system is biased against Asian-American applicants, a nonprofit group suing the university alleged in a court filing on Friday.
The claim by Students for Fair Admissions Inc came in a brief that sought to have a federal judge in Boston rule in its favor without a trial in a closely watched lawsuit accusing Harvard of discriminating against Asian-Americans.
In court papers, Arlington, Virginia-based Students for Fair Admissions said an Asian-American male applicant with a 25 percent chance of admission would have a 35 percent chance if he was white, 75 percent if he were Hispanic and a 95 percent chance if he were black.
It said that in 2013, a Harvard research division found that over a decade Asian-American admission rates were lower than those for whites annually even though whites only outperformed Asian-American applicants on a subjective rating of a student’s personality.
But the group said Harvard ultimately killed the study and buried the reports from it.
6/15/18 Bloomberg TV: “Harvard Study Finds Admissions Bias Against Asian-Americans”
6/15/18 Harvard Crimson: “Internal Harvard Review Showed Disadvantage for Asian Applicants”
6/8/18 The Weekly Standard: “The Balancing Game: Investigating discrimination at Harvard”
The Center for Equal Opportunity has released a study of enrollment data trends for three selective schools—Caltech, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and, yes, Harvard. Authored by Althea Nagai, a research fellow at CEO (where I have an affiliation), the paper bears the ironic title—not one the suing students would fail to cheer—“Too Many Asian Americans: Affirmative Discrimination in Elite College Admissions.”
Caltech doesn’t use racial references to admit students, while both MIT and Harvard do. Asian-American applicants to colorblind Caltech have proved so well qualified that they now win more than 40 percent of the seats in a class. Asian-American applicants to MIT and Harvard are no less qualified than those accepted by Caltech, and yet they are awarded many fewer seats than in the California school.
At MIT, says Nagai, after years of increases in the number of Asian-Americans admitted, a high-water mark of 29 percent was reached in 1995, after which the school saw a slow decline to 26 percent, where it remains today. At Harvard, Asian-American undergraduate enrollment increased to 21 percent in 1993 before dropping over the next few years to the level sustained since, which is roughly 17 percent.
Nagai takes those numbers as evidence that there is a “cap” or “ceiling” on how many Asian-American applicants MIT and Harvard will admit. She assumes there are such caps on Asian-American admissions at most elite schools and sees them as discriminatory and illegal.
A recent article in the Harvard Law Review cites studies showing that Asian-Americans have “the lowest acceptance rates of all racial groups.” At the same time, conventional indicators of academic merit show that they “tend to be better qualified than the average applicant.” That means, as the article says, that Asian-Americans must “perform better than all other groups to have the same chance of admission.” Which raises the question, how much better?
Research by the Princeton sociologists Thomas J. Espenshade and Alexandria Walton Radford helps provide an answer. Their study of preferential admissions at eight elite schools found that, to have such a chance, Asian-American applicants would have to score (on the “old” SAT) 140 points higher than white applicants, 270 higher than Hispanics, and 450 higher than black applicants, all other factors remaining the same.
Espenshade and Radford didn’t publish their book until 2009. But the probabilities of admission it reported are unlikely to have changed or we would know it.
Somehow Harvard is able year by year to admit and enroll the same percentage of blacks, Hispanics, whites and Asian-Americans, even though, says the complaint, “the application rates and qualifications for each racial group have undergone significant changes over time.” SFFA sees the “remarkably stable admissions and enrollment figures” as “the deliberate result of system-wide intentional discrimination designed to achieve a predetermined racial balance of its student body.”
5/25/2018 Chicago Tribune: “Asian-Americans face an unfair ceiling in college admissions”
by Linda Chavez
My Center for Equal Opportunity this week published a study looking at Asian acceptance rates at three elite universities: Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the California Institute of Technology. The study’s author, Dr. Althea Nagai, found that the two universities that use race and ethnicity as factors in admission, Harvard and MIT, appear to cap Asian acceptance rates, much as rates of acceptance for Jews were limited by elite schools in early eras.
Nagai shows that at both Harvard and MIT, Asian admissions seem to have hit a ceiling over the past 20 years or even declined. At MIT, Asian admissions peaked in 1995 at 29 percent and have declined slightly since, to 26 percent in 2016. At Harvard, admissions for Asians hit a high of 21 percent in 1993, dropped and have remained nearly constant at 17 percent since then. A suit against Harvard by Asian students alleging racial discrimination is set to be argued later this year.
By contrast, Nagai’s analysis shows that Caltech — which does not use race as a factor in admissions — has seen a steady increase in the number of Asians admitted over the past two decades. In 2016, 43 percent of students admitted to Caltech were Asians, but more importantly, the trend line since the late 1990s has been going up almost every year. Caltech has not applied a ceiling to Asian admissions, which is why it has more than twice the percentage of such students as Harvard and 65 percent more than MIT.
As an interesting aside, Caltech manages to admit a large percentage of Hispanic students, 12 percent, even without using race or ethnicity as a plus factor.
5/1/18 The Hill: “Affirmative action in education looks an awful lot like bigotry — especially to Asian-Americans”
4/10/18 CNN: “Race case against Harvard moves forward”
4/8/18 Harvard Crimson: “DOJ Calls for Unsealing of Harvard Admissions Data”
4/6/18 The College Fix: “Admissions records show Harvard discriminated against Asian Americans for decades: lawsuit”
4/4/18 New York Times: “Asian-Americans Suing Harvard Say Admissions Files Show Discrimination”
3/29/18 Harvard Crimson: “Record-Low 4.59 Percent of Applicants Accepted to Harvard Class of 2022”
The percentage of minority admits rose across racial groups relative to last year’s levels. A record 15.5 percent of admitted students are African American, up from last year’s 14.6 percent. Latino admits increased to 12.2 percent from last year’s 11.6 percent. Native American admits grew marginally this year to 2 percent, up from last year’s 1.9 percent. Asian American admits went up to a record 22.7 percent, compared to last year’s 22.2 percent.
These demographic shifts come amid a pending lawsuit that alleges Harvard’s race-conscious admissions policies illegally discriminate against Asian-American applicants. The United States Department of Justice is currently investigating Harvard for similar allegations.
3/10/18 CNN: “Suit accusing Harvard of capping Asian-American admissions could be tried this summer”
2/15/18 Business Insider: “Asian-American groups are saying affirmative action hurts their chances to get into Ivy League schools”
1/23/18 Sacramento Bee: “The next battle over affirmative action is about discrimination against Asian Americans”
1/21/18 Wall Street Journal: “Colorblindness Succeeds in California”
By David A. Lehrer
In 1996 California voters approved Proposition 209, an amendment to the California Constitution: “The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin.” Because of Proposition 209, California’s public universities have used colorblind admissions for two decades, although they actively consider applicants’ socioeconomic status.
The results have been a stunning success. Last year the Equality of Opportunity Project conducted a nationwide longitudinal study to find which colleges were doing the most to help poor students succeed. Of the top 10 ranked, five were California public schools. Among America’s elite colleges, the University of California, Los Angeles, enrolled the highest share of low- and middle-income students (19%). In the University of California system, 43% of the freshman class admitted in 2016 were the first in their families to attend college, and 37% had family incomes under $47,200 a year.
This colorblind admission system nonetheless produces college classrooms that are a fairly accurate cross-section of California’s racial and ethnic diversity. In 2017 admitted freshmen throughout the UC system were 34% Asian, 33% Latino, 24% white and 5% African-American. In the Cal State system, the figures were 47% Latino, 20% white, 16% Asian and Filipino, and 4% African-American.
For comparison, California’s high-school seniors are 52% Latino, 24% white, 11% Asian and Filipino, and 6% African-American. And of course not all seniors qualify for admission to a university, let alone the UC system.
These figures for minority admissions in the UC schools exceed many of the targets they had set before Proposition 209. Since 1996, Latinos as a share of enrollment have grown from 14% to 33%, Asians from 28% to 34%, and African-Americans from 4% to 5%. Whites have declined from 41% to 24%.
This diversity has been achieved while maintaining the quality of California’s public universities. The latest college rankings from U.S. News & World Report list UCLA and UC Berkeley as tied for the top public school in the country. Four other UCs (Santa Barbara, Irvine, San Diego and Davis) are among the top dozen.
Today’s colorblind system is working well for all Californians—rich and poor, minority and white—and is a model for the rest of the country.
Mr. Lehrer is president of Community Advocates Inc., a civil-rights organization in Los Angeles.
1/9/18 South China Morning Post: “Asian-American frat boys get jail sentences for hazing death of student Michael Chun Deng”
12/7/17 Harvard Law Review: “The Harvard Plan that Failed Asians”
11/5/17 Asia Times: “‘Diversity’ hides racial balancing: Asian American students”
11/1/17 Capital Research: “Affirmative Action Targets Asian Americans”
10/26/17 Diverse Issues in Higher Education: “Asian American Students Still Struggling With Burden of Expectations”