In “Elites to Anti-Affirmative-Action Voters: Drop Dead,” in the new City Journal, Heather MacDonald describes how the University of California twisted and turned and to defend “diversity” in response to the state initiative banning racial and ethnic preferences. At Berkeley and UCLA, the most competitive campuses, affirmative action had admitted blacks and Hispanics with significantly lower test scores, MacDonald writes.
The median SAT score of blacks and Hispanics in Berkeleyâ€™s liberal arts programs was 250 points lower (on a 1,600-point scale) than that of whites and Asians.
. . . Even though preference beneficiaries often chose the easiest majors â€” there were, and still are, virtually no blacks and Hispanics in the most competitive engineering and computer science majors, for example â€” … the average six-year graduation rate for blacks and â€œChicanosâ€ (California-speak for Mexican-Americans) admitted from 1991 to 1997, the last year of preferences, was about 20 percent below that of whites and Asians.
In 1998, when the university dropped explicit racial preferences, but hadn’t yet subsituted “stealthy surrogates for race,” the admitted minority students were much better prepared to succeed at elite colleges.
At Berkeley, the median SAT gap shrunk nearly in half, to 120 points; black and Hispanic admits logged an impressive 1,280 on their combined SATs. The six-year graduation rates of this class would increase 6.5 percent for blacks and 4.9 percent for Hispanics, compared with the class admitted two years earlier.
There after, the university began admitted more students based on “holistic” critera and fewer on the basis of grades and test scores.
There is a move to expand the pool of students qualified for the University of California — now defined in terms of grades and test scores — to include C+ students who are deemed to display “spark” and “leadership” skills and students who’ve overcome hardships such as poverty and racism.
As this San Jose Mercury News editorial explains, diversity advocates misread UC-Davis research that shows these fuzzy attributes don’t make up for weak academic preparation. In fact, students who’ve faced hardships, such as family poverty, are less likely to complete a degree compared to students with similar academic qualifications who have less to handle in their personal lives.
High school grades and SATs combined explain only a quarter of students’ success in college, the UC report says. But when UC stretches the rules to admit less-qualified students, they’re much less likely to succeed. The six-year UC graduation rate was 79 percent for academic admits who started in 1996, 52 percent for those “admitted by exception.”
. . . Of all the non-academic factors, only leadership and athletic ability boost the graduation rate, the study found. And students admitted because of leadership skills don’t do as well as those admitted on academics alone.
. . . It’s fine to discuss alternatives to the master plan, but we don’t think sending more C students to four-year colleges is going to make California a smarter state.
What a great editorial. OK, I wrote it in the fall when I was a temp editorial writer back at the Merc.
University of Michigan is now facing the same challenge as University of California: How do you get racial and ethnic diversity at a state’s flagship universities when so few black and Hispanic students are prepared for high-level university work? You either play games with admissions — UM may give a break to Detroit students — or you strengthen K-12 education. The latter is much, much harder.
Discriminations points out another strategy in use by selective universities: Admit black students from the Caribbean and Africa, often the children of well-educated professionals. The more selective the school, the more likely black students come from immigrant families, most commonly from Jamaica, Nigeria, Haiti and Ghana. At Columbia, Penn, Princeton, and Yale, 41 percent of black students were first- or second-generation immigrants.
Non-native black students are more likely to tackle rigorous majors, such as engineering.