A coalition of Asian-American organizations have urged the Department of Education to investigate several Ivy League schools, including Brown University, Dartmouth College, and Yale University, for discriminating against Asian-American students during the admission process.
Over the last twenty years, the population of Asian-American college students has doubled, and the number of highly qualified Asian-American applicants has increased dramatically. The percentage of Asian-American students accepted into Ivy League schools, however, has flatlined. These statistics are documented by Rob Wile of the website Fusion.
The group, Asian-American Coalition for Education (AACE), alleges that certain elite institutions use racially differentiated quotas and caps that hinder Asian-American applicants. “If this is merit-based, we should eliminate racial quotas,” says Yukong Zhao, ACCE President. “America is a country with indispensable principles like democracy and equal opportunity. Asian Americans have been attracted to this land primarily on these principles. Violating these principles undermines it.”
Douglas Belkin of The Wall Street Journal reports that most of the accused schools have dismissed the claims. Every spring, the Education Department receives complaints on behalf of Asian-American applicants, but it has never found that schools are deliberately discriminating against members of this ethnic group. Last year, the Department dismissed a similar complaint against Harvard University.
The accusations, according to Benjamin Snyder of Fortune, also criticize Ivy League admissions committee for viewing Asian-Americans as a monolithic block rather than as individuals and for assuming that they lack the creativity, critical thinking capacities, and leadership skills associated with high-achieving white students. The group said that if it cannot achieve legal action against the Ivy League, it will generate enough social pressure to force it to change. Interestingly, after students filed a similar complaint against Princeton in 2006, the university’s admission rate of Asian-Americans increased from 14.7% to 25.4%.
Support for the AACE’s petition is not unanimous among Asian-American groups. A group called Asian Americans Advancing Justice released a counter statement saying that it fully supports Affirmative Action in higher education, but also noted the intense competition among Asian-American students.
An independent report found that, on average, Asian-Americans must have SATs scores 140 points on higher than white students, 270 points higher than Hispanic students, and 450 points higher than African-American students to equal their chances of gaining admission to Harvard. The concentration of so many high-achieving Asian-Americans diminishes the odds of their admission. “It’s tougher for Asians to be successful because they’re competing against a pool that’s quite saturated,” said Nat Smitobol, a counselor at New York-based college admissions service IvyWise.
To resolve this dilemma? Some analysts have suggested that Asian-American applicants leave their ethnicity box on their application unchecked to avoid being compared with other Asian-American applicants. Others have encouraged Asian-Americans to apply to humanities programs, which have much lower concentrations of Asian-Americans than STEM fields. These steps could potentially level the playing field, especially since legal action from the Department of Education is unlikely to happen.