The recent Supreme Court decision concerning Michigan’s 2006 ban on race as a factor in college admissions, although it only confirmed the constitutionality of the ban, may mean the chipping away of race-based admission practices nationwide. Writing for NBC News, Nona Willis reports that educators predict the need for an abundance of creativity among the nation’s colleges to produce diversity in our institutions of higher learning. Some think that class and wealth-based affirmative action is the solution of the future.
Some colleges and universities have already started experimental programs toward this end. One policy being considered is the “top ten percent” plan, through which students from each high school in the state are guaranteed admittance to a state school. Texas has been employing a version of this program since 1996.
Richard Kahlenberg of the Century Foundation, a think tank targeting public policy, applauds Texas. The “top ten” policy has increased the number of black and Hispanic students enrolled in state colleges, creating a campus that is both racially and economically diverse, instead of only privileged students of color.
But the University of California’s black and Hispanic demographic decreased after instituting the “top ten” plan and has not risen. Still, some experts say that race-based affirmative action is the only solution. In 2013 , the UT-Austin’s enrollment for the freshman class was 23% Hispanic and 5% black; while the state percentages were 38% Hispanic and 12% black. Hispanic and black college enrollment has grown in a big way in the last ten years, but these groups continue to be under-represented at colleges, especially selective colleges.
The University of Colorado-Boulder created an algorithm to define admission requestors’ performance versus the performance of other students with the same backgrounds and experiences. In essence, the formula takes into consideration the students’ perseverance quotient which has allowed them to hurdle obstacles in order to continue reaching their goals. Colorado-Boulder has succeeded in raising their underrepresented minorities admissions to a higher level than they did with affirmative action. Elite schools want to be selective, though the Century Foundation says the schools would benefit from a “top ten” approach because of its meritocratic properties. Although elite colleges are more equipped to subsidize low-income students because of the schools’ large endowments, most low-income students do not apply to these schools.
According to Ward Connerly founder of the American Civil Rights Institute…
“To engage in what amounts to racial discrimination in the name of ‘we want diversity’ I think is morally wrong,” said Connerly, who is black. “Race shouldn’t matter more than other types of diversity. Class-based remedies make sense in a society that is as fluid as ours is, with more and more black people finding themselves part of the middle class.”
Jamelle Bouie in an opinion piece written for Slate.com, is concerned that class-based affirmative action is not going to heal the disparities of racial inequalities. He believes that taking race out of the formula is a mistake. He adds that blacks and whites with similar financial status live in dramatically different ways. There is a persistent residential segregation. Even when the neighborhoods of a black and white child are similar the black neighborhood will have more crime, worse schools, and lower property values.
In The Guardian, Julianne Hing disagrees, and quotes Supreme Court Justice Sondra Sotomayor in her dissenting vote last week.
“…race matters for reasons that are only skin deep, that cannot be discussed any other way, and that cannot be wished away. We ought not sit back and wish away, rather than confront, the racial inequality that exists in our society.”