Saturday, 06 June 2020

Vincent: Race should not impact the college admissions process

On April 22, the United States Supreme Court reversed a ruling by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals that a Michigan state constitutional law banning the use of race-based preference in public universities violated the Equal Protection Clause. Basically, this 6-2 decision allows and somewhat encourages laws banning affirmative action.

Eight states, including California, currently ban the inclusion of race and/or ethnicity in public university admissions considerations.

Conversely, the California State Assembly is currently examining a state Constitutional amendment removing the ban on affirmative action that voters put in place in 1996 with Proposition 209. The initiative has already passed through the state Senate.

I am a junior at Clear Lake High School in Lakeport and the college admissions process for me is about arrive.

I have strived to make my school grades, extra curriculars, and everything else look as good as possible in the eyes of admissions officers in the hopes of achieving the American dream of higher education.

Should those who do not make nearly the same effort still gain similar consideration just because they are of a traditionally under-represented ethnic background?

Maybe this is rarely the case. Maybe this happens all the time. It is hard for one who lies outside the college admissions process to judge this, considering higher education admissions are both holistic and somewhat secretive.

Yes, it is conclusive that socioeconomically disadvantaged or minority students are often not very strong candidates for selective colleges because of their cultural background, home environment, or societal pressure. But should this be accounted for fully in the university admissions process?

No, this is a problem deeply rooted in American society and should be attacked much earlier. Programs need to be implemented to ensure all students have the best possible environment to thrive academically and socially – regardless or economic or racial background.

Maybe some statistics can further enlighten the situation.

Before the ban on affirmative action, the percentage of Hispanic freshman at UC Berkeley, the country’s arguably most selective public university, was at 23 percent in 1991. The “enrollment gap,” which is the difference between that percentage and the percentage of Hispanic college-aged Californians at 36 percent, was only 13 points. As for African-Americans, they made up 7 percent of the freshman class, which resulted in an enrollment gap of only 2 points.

In 2011, years after the ban was instated, only 11 percent and 2 percent of freshman were Hispanic and African-American, respectively.  The enrollment gap had risen to 38 points and 7 points.

These are staggering numbers any way one looks at it. From one perspective, they show how disadvantaged these racial groups are in colleges and universities – and in education in general. In yet another, they show how much affirmative action had an effect in meeting certain quotas for admissions.

Perhaps, the most important conclusion from these numbers is the fact that race had a huge impact on the college admissions process – something that should not be true. Graduation rates have also risen slightly – showing those admitted these days are probably better qualified.

It is certain we should stop trying to make up for racial inequality at the university admissions level. It is grossly problematic to make up for mistakes in the past. Let’s start from primary education and close the gap there. That way, admissions rates and graduation rates will go up. Affirmative action should not be the equalizer for education in America.

Christopher Vincent is a junior at Clear Lake High School in Lakeport, Calif.

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