Study Finds Socio-economic Status Not a Likely Substitute for Race in
CA College Admissions
By Amanda Lepof, Program Assistant, Diversity, Equity, & Global Initiatives, AAC&U
"TESTING AND DIVERSITY IN POSTSECONDARY EDUCATION: THE CASE OF
CALIFORNIA," A RESEARCH STUDY EXAMINING THE IMPACT OF ALTERNATIVE
ADMISSIONS PROCEDURES REPLACING AFFIRMATIVE ACTION POLIEICES, REVEALS
THAT RACE-NEUTRAL ADMISSION WILL LIKELY DECREASE RACIAL DIVERSITY IN THE
UC SYSTEM. THE STUDY WAS CONDUCTED BY DANIEL KORETZ AND CATHY HORN OF
HARVARD UNIVERSITY, MICHAEL RUSSELL AND KELLY SHASBY OF BOSTON COLLEGE,
AND CHINGWEI DAVID SHIN OF THE UNIVERSITY OF IOWA. THEY INVESTIGATED HOW
THE ELIMINATION OF AFFIRMATIVE ACTION AFFECTED DIVERSITY IN THE UNIVERSITY
OF CALIFORNIA SYSTEM AND QUESTIONED IF SOCIOECONOMIC, EDUCATIONAL BACKGROUND,
OR OTHER FACTORS COULD BE USED AS A SUBSTITUTE FOR RACE-BASED ADMISSIONS
1995 to 1997 in California, executive action and voter referenda have
steadily eliminated affirmative action. Several other states, including
Texas, Michigan, Washington, and Florida, have faced challenges or
repeals to their affirmative action policies regarding public college
and university admissions. The threat or repeal of affirmative action
has led some states to develop alternative policies in order to increase
or maintain the diversity of their student bodies.
threat or repeal of affirmative action has led some states to
develop alternative policies in order to increase or maintain
the diversity of their student bodies.
California implemented a system favoring the high class ranking of high
school seniors in its admissions policies. Texas and Florida have instituted
similar procedures. In addition to purposeful recruiting and outreach
to minority high schools, these states also implemented policies whereby
students at each public high school in the state who place above a specified
class rank percentile are guaranteed acceptance to at least one school
in the state university system. The researchers termed these "X%
In California, the top 4% of graduating high school seniors from each
high school are guaranteed admission to one of the eight University of
California (UC) campuses--but not necessarily their first choice school.
In Florida, the top 20% of graduating high school seniors are guaranteed
admissions to at least one of Florida's 10 state universities. Additionally
Florida schools are encouraged to consider the financial aid needs of
these students before the financial aid needs of other students.
"Testing and Diversity in Postsecondary Education: The Case of California,"
further explored X% policies and other alternative admissions policies
in California. The researchers studied the eight University of California
campuses and chose three model schools, based on selectivity groupings.
One school was chosen from the highly selective grouping, one from the
moderately selective grouping, and one from the lowest selectivity grouping.
They then developed race-neutral admissions data (focusing on student
GPA and SAT scores) and compared that to true racial/ethnic composition
of the student body in order to examine the impact of race neutral admissions
in the UC system.
Resulting data indicated that race-neutral admissions would likely decrease
the racial diversity of the UC system. Weighting socioeconomic background
and educational factors had only moderate effects on increasing African
American and Hispanic students' representation in the UC system.
The study also showed that California's current policy to accept the top
4% of high school seniors in each individual high school does not significantly
increase the number of minority students accepted to UC campuses. Rather,
the study found that accepting the top 12.5% of graduating seniors from
each individual high school to one of eight University of California schools
would increase diversity at UC campuses. Instituting a 12.5% policy would
not only increase the number of Hispanic and African American students,
but would also increase the number of students from urban areas and the
number of students who speak a language other than English at home. The
X% policy only increased the diversity of admitted students when a large
percentage of students from each high school were guaranteed admissions.
The study concluded: "None of the alternative admissions models analyzed
could replicate the composition of the student population that was in
place before the termination of affirmative action in California."
While the study was conducted using data in the California state system,
the researchers believed that many of their findings could be generalized
to other state admissions procedures.
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