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Friday, February 23, 2024

New study says: If race is removed from college admissions, fewer Blacks attend

By Cash Michaels, Peacemaker Senior Contributor / April 7, 2023

The conservative-majority U.S. Supreme Court is soon expected to issue its decision in a case that challenges affirmative action admission policies at predominantly White UNC-Chapel Hill and Harvard University.

The High Court is expected to rule that race-conscious college admissions are unconstitutional. According to the online publication Inside Higher Ed, the momentous decision is expected “to affect all of higher education.” Chief diversity officers across the nation are already preparing for a negative decision.

“About 60 percent of top U.S. colleges consider race a factor in admissions, according to 2015 estimates,” reports Reuters News Service.

But a new study titled, Race-conscious Affirmative Action: What’s Next, issued on March 28th by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce “…found that admissions practices that consider class – defined by family income and parental education and occupational prestige – but not race, would still leave selective colleges without the representation of Black, Hispanic, Indigenous and Pacific Islander students seen in U.S. high schools,” according to BET News.

If the conservative-majority court does throw out race as a significant factor in college admissions, hundreds of thousands of young people of color could lose their opportunity to rise above the poverty of their personal economic circumstance to achieve a good education at a quality school of higher learning.

If the study by Georgetown University is correct, the study maintains, the denial of such educational opportunities to Black and other students of color would automatically relegate them to a lower rung in educational and economic achievement, thus reinforcing their lower socio-economic station in life.

“Without race-conscious admissions, the role selective colleges play in creating equal opportunity in our society is likely to diminish,” says Zack Mabel, co-author of the Georgetown study. To achieve the same level of diversity in admissions now, especially among African American students, schools like UNC – Chapel Hill would have to “fundamentally alter their admissions practices,” going beyond just socio-economic factors alone to admit students of color.

It was last fall when the Supreme Court heard oral arguments where a group called the Students for Fair Admission claimed that UNC at Chapel Hill discriminated against White and Asian-American applicants in favor of African American and other applicants of color in college admissions. UNC- Chapel Hill, like other major predominately-White universities like Harvard, have been able to legally and successfully incorporate race as a factor in their admissions policies for several decades, thanks to previous federal court rulings that originally challenged the practice, but ultimately forced those schools to eliminate racial quotas and fine tune their practices.

Schools like UNC at Chapel Hill were able to show that making race a factor, instead of the factor in considering college applicants, helped to provide students of color the opportunity they deserved, and provided the diversity that society needed in college-trained potential leaders of tomorrow.

The plaintiffs, Students for Fair Admission, counter that all college admissions processes should be race-blind in order to ensure fairness for White and Asian-American applicants, and be class-based instead.

Interestingly though, the Georgetown study suggested eliminating the traditional affirmative action processes that have given Whites a strong advantage for generations.

An alternative admissions process that includes socio-economic status would achieve a high level of racial and ethnic diversity if colleges eliminate preferences for legacy applicants, student athletes, those with ties to donors and other such factors that mostly benefit White, affluent applicants, the study found, BET News reported. The study also recommended predominately-White colleges and universities “…expand their recruitment of high school students from disadvantaged backgrounds for a class-based alternative to produce a similar outcome to race-conscious admissions….”

A ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to be issued this spring.


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Since 1967, the Carolina Peacemaker has served as North Carolina’s leading news weekly with a national reputation. Founded by Dr. John Kilimanjaro, the newspaper is published by Carolina Newspaper, Inc.

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