Class-Based vs. Race-Based Admissions (Participation)

Class-Based vs. Race-Based Admissions – NY Times Editorial


Admissions policies that take class into account, rather than race, are getting a renewed push as a win-win solution. The contention is that they more fully serve the goal of diversity in higher education and provide a progressive way to resolve an enduring conflict that has now returned to the Supreme Court in a case about race-conscious admissions at the University of Texas at Austin.

But a crucial premise of the class-over-race argument is wrong. It is not possible to maintain the same level of racial diversity in higher education while applying a race-blind admissions policy. Class-based admissions generally reduce the number of black and Hispanic students. To maintain or build the levels of racial diversity on selective campuses, it is necessary to maintain race-conscious admissions.

While there are higher shares of blacks and Hispanics among low-income Americans, their smaller shares of the whole population mean that whites make up by far the largest portion of low-income families. As Alan Krueger, now head of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, and his co-authors wrote in 2006, “The correlation between race and family income, while strong, is not strong enough to permit the latter to function as a useful proxy for race in the pursuit of diversity.”

Class-based policies can maintain the share of blacks and Hispanics at selective colleges and universities only if admissions policies also give an advantage to blacks and Hispanics that is not race-blind. That is also the finding of Anthony Carnevale and his co-authors, researchers relied on by advocates for class-based policies. Advocates may broaden the definition of social and economic disadvantage to include other factors, like speaking a foreign language at home, but these are proxies for ethnicity or race.

Harvard’s Thomas Kane found that selective colleges and universities using class-based admissions would have to save six times as many places for low-income students to maintain the same level of black and Hispanic students. (That was in 1997-8, but none of the core premises for that conclusion have changed much.) For colleges and universities committed to diversity, the right way to think about class- and race-conscious admissions is as complements rather than alternatives. Both are essential for a truly diverse campus.

Maintaining race-conscious admissions contributes significantly to campus diversity, while serving racial and social justice. Expanding class-conscious admissions significantly expands diversity while serving social and economic justice — though it also requires considerably more financial aid, which is why the wealthiest and most selective colleges and universities have more such diversity.

A benefit of the attention to class-based admissions policies is the spotlight it puts on how much education from kindergarten through college favors students with economic and social advantages. Those from the top fifth of households in income are at least seven times as likely to go to selective colleges as those in the bottom fifth. The achievement gap between high- and low-income groups is almost twice as wide as between whites and blacks.

But the disadvantage resulting from class status does not change the reality that blacks and Hispanics are also substantially underrepresented at selective colleges and universities. In 2004, they were 14.5 percent and 16 percent, respectively, of those graduating from high schools, but only 3.5 percent and 7 percent of those enrolling in selective colleges and universities. The underrepresentation has gotten worse over the past generation.

In 2003, when the Supreme Court ruled that race-conscious admissions are constitutional if carefully carried out, it gave two basic reasons: they serve a compelling interest of society; and without them, selective colleges and universities would be much less diverse than they must be to serve that interest.

Shifts in American demographics since then have only reinforced this crucial need.


3 thoughts on “Class-Based vs. Race-Based Admissions (Participation)

  1. After reading this article I am not surprised with the percentages given towards the end of Hispanics graduation rates and rates of enrollment. Like we all know most Hispanics are considered to be “poor”. Being “poor” is the major reason of why Hispanics don’t do well in school to begin with. This is not true for everyone, there are some Hispanics that make it through high school and pursue their education. But like how we mentioned in class your ethnicity or race really matters in some ways. If you are a Hispanic student in high school you are most likely struggling in one thing or another, you are stressed out really often, and probably have many things to do. You can’t compare a life of a white student with the life of a Hispanic student. A white student will only focus to do well in school and play sports and a Mexican will be worried about homework, care for the family (younger siblings while parents work), chores around the house, and many other things that come up. The Mexican student will most likely not be involved in sports because of the cost ($) and because of the time. They are busy most of the time. A white student will be able to buy extra material that will help them succeed in school like mentioned in class; those books that help do well in the SAT and ACT tests. Most Hispanics don’t have that money and if they do that money could be spend on food or other things that are needed at home. I am a Hispanic and what I can say is that you have to overcome many obstacles in order for you to continue your education. Parents of Hispanic kids cannot afford to pay their tuition so basically for Hispanics to be able to attend college they have to do well in school and get scholarships. Yes they will get federal financial aid but sometimes that is not enough. Money is the greatest barrier that Hispanics are faced with, and right after money even if they were to come up with the money like how it talks about in this article many schools don’t welcome minority groups very well. They prefer to give the opportunity to a white student what they all these good images and thoughts about. I think that that is one of the reasons that so many Mexican kids either not finish high school or drop out. They see no future, they think about all those things like money and enrollment and think they won’t make and why bother. The high school from which I come is a small school and there has always been many drop out students. The environment in which students are also affects them and their decisions. In my school there were several teachers that didn’t say it directly but practically did say that all those Mexican kids there would eventually drop out and not graduate. They didn’t not think much could be done with Hispanic kids and us as students were able to see that.

  2. When I first read the heading I thought I was going to be more surprised in what they were talking about but sadly I am not surprised. For a while I was because I always had the mentality that colleges wanted diversity in their schools but at the same time they want money. I don’t blame them money is good but that should not be the main reason they want students to come to their school. I think sometimes the only reason they want students in higher class is because of the money, the schools might let in students of different races just to say they did but sometimes they do not really mean it they just don’t want to look like a school that is discriminating school. They want to look like an equal school. -nohemi meza

  3. As an international student, I want to say something about the American education. At present, more an more Chinese students come to the United States for study. They know America has the higher education around the world and they want to receive it. Although the U.S. colleges and universities accept more and more students, the tuition is also increasing. However, the amount of international students is still rising up.

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