College students hanging at the campus.
Diversity at risk on campus? Photo: Pixabay.

Nationwide ban on race-conscious admissions practices would threaten diversity

The study warns that such a measure will make it impossible for universities to reflect the growing ethnic plurality.


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A new analysis from Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW) indicates that the expected restriction of race-aware entrance tests would threaten the racial diversity of students at selective colleges unless they fundamentally change their practices of admission.

Anthony P. Carnevale, CEW Director and lead author, noted:

Our models make one thing very clear: the most effective way of increasing socioeconomic diversity at selective colleges is to consider race in the admissions process, not to ignore it.

Important Warnings

According to the 'Race-Conscious Affirmative Action: What's Next' study, banning race-conscious affirmative action will prevent selective college admissions from reflecting the growing racial diversity in high schools.

In the report, CEW researchers examine six different admissions models and the impact they are likely to have on racial/ethnic and socioeconomic diversity if used consistently at selective colleges.

Four of these models consider alternatives to racially conscious admissions, and two demonstrate what might happen in the unlikely event that racially conscious admissions were expanded rather than prohibited. The other two specifically consider class-conscious admissions as alternatives to racially-conscious admissions.

“There’s a prevailing idea that race-conscious admissions practices only privilege the richest members of underrepresented racial/ethnic groups, but that does not hold up under scrutiny. According to our analysis, white and Asian/Asian American students are much more likely than Black/African American and Hispanic/Latino students to be from upper and upper-middle class families,” added Carnevale.

Legal Overview

The study also envisions a scenario in which the U.S. Supreme Court declares race-based college admissions unconstitutional and in which these selective institutions retain admissions preferences for legacy applicants, student-athletes, and other privileged groups, with selective college campuses expected to become less racially and ethnically diverse than they are today.

“Without race-conscious admissions, the role  selective colleges play in creating equal opportunity in our society is likely to diminish,” pointed out Zack Mabel, report co-author and research professor at CEW.

The Supreme Court is considering cases in its current term that challenge affirmative action policies at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina, with a ruling expected by the end of June.

The report also addresses concerns related to gaps in college readiness where, if passed, the measure would lead to lower completion rates.

For their part, the models also suggest that increasing diversity along any of these dimensions could lead to increased performance of academic and non-academic resources provided by selective colleges and perform similarly to students from most favored backgrounds.

“The barriers to educational opportunity that stem from race and class are connected but distinct. As a result, when it comes to the goal of equalizing college access and success across advantaged and disadvantaged racial and ethnic groups and across advantaged and disadvantaged socioeconomic groups, there is no good substitute for the joint consideration of both race and socioeconomic status in college admissions,” added Mabel.

To view the full report, including a detailed methodology appendix, click here.


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