THE BRIDGE TO COLLEGE
What May Happen After the Supreme Court Speaks
NOTE: You may consider what I’m about to say as controversial, but this article is designed to help the next generation navigate college admissions.
By definition, the future is impossible to predict, but I’m going to try.
Presently, the United States Supreme Court is considering two cases about college admissions. Students For Fair Admissions (SFFA) has accused Harvard of discriminating against Asians in order to boost representation from other groups and has also accused the University of North Carolina of violating both the U.S. Constitution and federal civil rights laws.
Oral arguments were recently conducted, and experts observing the justices’ comments noted that the court seems ready to recede from its 2003 decision in Grutter vs. Bollinger, which found that admissions processes that favor “underrepresented minority groups” do not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. In 1978, the court upheld affirmative action in admissions in University of California vs. Bakke. However, the recent oral arguments seemed to signal that today’s justices are considering dissolving affirmative action and race-based (and presumably ethnicity-based) factors.
So, what does that really mean for college admissions? In my opinion, probably nothing.
In a world that asserts “white privilege” as the universal cause of discrimination, it should be noted that both the plaintiffs complaining about unfair practices in both Bakke and Grutter were white. It should also be noted that today’s diverse campuses do not favor whites quantitatively.
Depending upon the source you review, whites (non-Hispanic) make up roughly 60% of the American population. At Harvard, the percentage of whites is under 40%. At UNC – a public university that legally must support the citizens of its state, which is 68% white – the percentage of white students is only 59%.
However, despite the fact that Asian-Americans make up slightly less than 6% of the US population, Harvard’s student body is 21% Asian-American (plus 12% international students, many from Asia). UNC is almost 12% Asian, despite the state being only 3% Asian.
Especially at private colleges, Asian Americans are boosted in comparison to the national demographics. Not including international students, Stanford is 23% Asian. MIT is roughly 30% Asian, which is more than its 29% white population. Yale is 20% Asian, and Princeton is 22% Asian. At each of these schools, the white population is only about 40%.
This admissions issue is not white privilege. SFFA is attacking bias resulting from affirmative action. In other words – and this may not be popular – the primary targets of these two lawsuits are black students.
Depending upon the source, blacks make up between 12% and 13% of our U.S. population. In cities, black populations tend to be much higher. However, in American colleges, their numbers are lower. At Harvard, blacks make up less than 9% of the population. At UNC, the number is around 8%. At Stanford, it’s 7%. At MIT, only 6%. At both Yale and Princeton, the black populations are less than 8% of the campus blend.
I am not spouting these statistics to prove any point except to say that, according to the demographic numbers, current holistic admissions policies favor Asian-Americans by factors between 3X and 4X, disfavor white applicants, and also disfavor black applicants.
Why? Especially at residential colleges where students live together on campus for all four years, diversity in all forms is part of the education. When people with different experiences and different philosophies interact, they teach each other about their differences. In my opinion, this is a good thing.
Even if the Supreme Court rules against Harvard and UNC, do we really believe that our colleges will dispose of their core value favoring diverse student bodies? Do we really think they will limit black students, who are already disproportionately underrepresented? I do not think so.
Instead, even if affirmative action is no longer utilized in admissions, I suspect that U.S. college demographic numbers will not change dramatically. Rather, instead of indicating that race or ethnicity is a basis for selection, U.S. colleges will indicate other reasons for their admissions decisions. They could rely upon socioeconomic factors, or first-generation status, or even “Did you see how great their essays were!”
Despite what the Supreme Court rules, here is what I know with certainty:If you understand how admissions works, your chances go up. If you do not understand the admissions process, your chances go down. That’s why educational consultants help students achieve their best potentials.
Robert LeVine is the founder and CEO of University Consultants of America, an independent educational consultancy assisting students around the world with applications to colleges, universities and graduate schools. For more information, call University Consultants of America, Inc. at 1-800-465-5890 or visit www.universitycoa.com