"Race" in College Applications FAQ & Discussion 12

@OHMomof2 It takes a lot of courage to compare racial preferences in College admissions to states trying to leave the Union due to wanting to continue slavery to a Black man who grew up in the Deep South and was mostly raised by Grandparents who were raised in the Jim Crow South. Not even in the same universe for comparison. I get that diversity is important (even if it is mostly well off URM getting the benefits of AA) and I feel the plight of of URM in America more than most (Mom and Grandparents still live in the inner city neighborhood where I was raised), but to not consider any possible alternative to racial preferences will guarantee racial division. Trust me when I say that my family has more to lose by given up racial preferences in college admissions than anyone (an entire side of my family is full of high scoring standardized test taking children), and I still believe that it is the best way going forward because race is a divider.

@ChangeTheGame I am afraid that racial preferences damage any chance at overcoming the divisions, prejudices and discrimination that occur in our society. When so many people disagree with the practice, it causes division that may not have existed otherwise, because it just moves the pain of discrimination to another group. Even for those who would argue that racial preferences are not a form of discrimination against other groups, if some people in those groups perceive it to be discrimination, does that help bring us any closer to racial unity in our society?

I have to say I agree with you on this. Humans are naturally tribal and when people perceive their tribe being taken advantage of they want to defend the interests of their own tribe.

How so? Just because some people don’t like that particular remedy?

That’s the comparison I made, and am still making.

But I’m all ears for other options, I just think pretending racial divisions don’t exist is not a good one.

@OHMomof2 Human nature is the answer. To ask for a never ending racial preference that favors one group over another will not go over well with the groups most affected negatively. No one is pretending that racial divisions don’t exist , and I have dealt with issues I deemed to be racial in my everyday live very directly, but why create extra ones unnecessarily?

I gave my answer to my personal solution about 100 pages ago on this thread and it dealt with accepting a “development group” (10% of a 2000 student class based more on SES and untapped potential of all races) who have to attend the school over an entire summer to build the skills necessary to succeed at the school. Georgia Tech runs a summer program for minority accepted students along those lines and those students have more early success than the general population of GT students. I also believe in making pathways (similar to what GT does with the HBCUs and other state schools) to reach those schools after showing academic achievement at the college level. Test optional schools are also a great path forward. There are things out there that are possibly already working but we tend to go to opposite sides when we could be looking for alternative solutions that are already working.

I certainly never suggested that it be never-ending - pretty sure no one has said that here.

But some people are, and will always be, opposed to AA for any period of time, until any goal is reached.

[quote] accepting a “development group” (10% of a 2000 student class based more on SES and untapped potential of all races) who have to attend the school over an entire summer to build the skills necessary to succeed at the school.

I also believe in making pathways (similar to what GT does with the HBCUs and other state schools) to reach those schools after showing academic achievement at the college level.

Test optional schools are also a great path forward.


Those are great ideas, especially for kids who aren’t ready academically and/or socially for college.

Why could they not work in tandem with AA, though? Why either/or?

^ Cornell used to do just that. Not sure if they still do.

Thanks for sharing. Very interesting.

Princeton has the Freshman Scholars Institute: https://fsi.princeton.edu/

So no spoilers? Ok, I won’t be the first.

Affirmative action is often sold as helping underprivileged, low-SES kids who have faced enormous obstacles, etc. Note carefully who gets the only acceptance and the socioeconomic conditions he apparently enjoys.

@SatchelSF I have taken a look at the data and have a few comments. Not surprised to see that income is not “perfectly correlated” but there is still a significant correlation which along with some other metrics (like parental education) becomes even more significant. I still believe the IQ/SAT correlation found is outdated (because the SAT is an easier test today), but I am not arguing with the original results. I also am not on board with the fact that SAT Prep is insignificant in increasing scores (I have seen enough with my own eyes to dispute that finding). The only aside with that one is what I have seen (minorities working with testing prep books and tutors) looks to show the highest rate of return based on the data presented. The data that was the most shocking from my point of view was the amount of African American students in each decile by GPA at elite law schools (#20 table 5.1). Although the sample size was small and the data is outdated (things could have changed a lot over the last 26 years), to show that 51.6% of African Americans are at the bottom decile and that only 8% of the African American students are in the top 5 deciles of the data stings. If African American students were at the bottom of their class at elite undergrad institutions instead of elite law schools in those same numbers, that would make those schools less attractive as a destination for my family and would make me question how large of a racial preference was given in admissions decisions. I would also like to see the GPAs at each decile, because inflated GPAs at each decile would lessen the impact of the data presented.

Personal Note… My son got into Carnegie Mellon SAMS yesterday and his summer experience (whether at SAMS or if he gets into MITES and chooses that program) will probably guide whether he applies to any elite institutions. But I promise to keep my cool if someone ‘infers’ that race was the reason for any future admissions decision that come his way (But my wife is a different story).

I liked the father of the accepted student’s comment - “this isn’t a meritocracy”. But he did say that before he knew the decision.

@Dolemite I think that those programs can make a big difference in outcomes. It would be nice if Princeton published some data on how those students do in comparison to other Princeton students. GT’s data that was presented at an Minority student admissions event last year showed very promising data.

@ChangeTheGame - congrats to your S on SAMS! My D looked hard at it but she wound up doing something else that summer. I thought the SAMS program looked really interesting. Pitt is a cool city and CMU has a great location in it.

This HBO report takes a look at the role of race and identity in admissions to elite colleges from the viewpoint of 3 high achieving boys and their parents at Glen Ridge HS in NJ. The report follows the boys as they await their Ivy League early action results. Not sure it covers much new ground but found it well worth the 12 minutes to watch:

@OHMomof2 Thank you very much for the congrats.

“Why could they not work in tandem with AA, though? Why either/or?”

I am sure some of the methods I mentioned are currently being used with other innovative techniques and AA. I have asked on this thread before about what would have to happen to say that AA has run its course in America. The answers I have received have been open ended where AA could run forever so I have been hoping that someone who believes that AA is still needed could come up with a metric, a timeline, or any possible outcome besides the courts knocking down the practice. Because a big part of the problem is that there is no end in sight for the practice of racial preferences when I talk to others who oppose the practice. I am an opponent because I believe that the only way to racial progress/unity long term and to improve achievement in URM students is to remove race, although URMs would pay the price (especially early on). No method that I have seen would get URMs back to the numbers of students currently selected using racial preferences, but I can see the writing on the wall. The current road will eventually lead to the SCOTUS knocking racial preferences down. And if that happens without creative alternative solutions (that don’t involve race), the number of URM students at elite institutions would be decimated.

I am not a fan of AA either as its simply causes divisiveness and gives an advantage to someone who was simply born into a particular race. I am a huge fan of social mobility however, and would love to see AA go away in favor of those who have been disadvantaged by their socio/economic status regardless of race. Maybe that is starting to happen.

“Maybe that is starting to happen.”

Actually, it has been happening for the last ten years. Elite schools have all advertised how much increase in percentage of their freshmen is First Gen and low income each cycle; At Stanford for example, the First Gen is 17.9% of the freshman class. If you include low income the FGLI percentage at elite schools is probably north of 30%. The FGLI was not designed to replace AA and probably never will.

To proponents of AA as long as the proportion of racial representation does not reflect those in general population there is need for the continuation or creation of AA. I just hope that someday people will get used to the fact that there will be disproportionate representation of race/ethnicity in many human endeavors and there is just no way to social-engineer the outcomes.

The metric I hear most often is representation proportional to population. Or population of graduating HS seniors.

Something like the process as it pertains to women who were under-represented and then achieved parity (and beyond, now, to the point that they are penalized in admissions to most colleges, except those with “tech” as a focus).

What is likely the actual metric for any individual college is that the racial/ethnic mix of its students is such that it is reasonably attractive to the most desirable range of potential applicants, donors, and employers hiring graduates, while not attracting negative publicity or lawsuits or being seen as unfriendly, unfair, or undesirable to some potential applicants, donors, or employers. Public colleges also have to consider general political pressures on the subject in the state government and voting population (or they may be required to have specific policies by the state government).

Colleges often believe that most students prefer to have an evenly gender-balanced group of students to attend college with, and often believe that such preference tends to override any fairness complaints by those of the disadvantaged gender.

Obviously, more selective colleges tend to have more ability to manipulate racial/ethnic and gender ratios since they have plenty of applicants with top-end academic credentials, unlike less selective colleges that have to take what they can get in terms of academic credentials. But the more selective colleges tend to face more marketing pressure, since applicants are more likely to have more choices, unlike those who may apply to less selective colleges.

In some cases, it may be impossible for a given college to satisfy all of these competing marketing goals with respect to student demographics.