'Idaho farm boys' aren't 'diverse'

College diversity policies don’t extend to Asians, low-income whites, Junior ROTC officers or Idaho farm boys, writes Russell Nieli, who works for Princeton’s James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions, on Minding the Campus.

A new study by Princeton sociologist Thomas Espenshade and Alexandria Radford uses data from eight highly competitive public and private colleges and universities over three years.

To have the same chances of gaining admission as a black student with an SAT score of 1100, an Hispanic student otherwise equally matched in background characteristics would have to have a 1230, a white student a 1410, and an Asian student a 1550.

Low-income status improved the admissions chances for blacks, Hispanics and Asians, but not for whites.  Private institutions were much more likely to admit affluent whites than disadvantaged whites with the same grades and test scores.

Private institutions, Espenshade and Radford suggest, “intentionally save their scarce financial aid dollars for students who will help them look good on their numbers of minority students.”

In the Bakke ruling Lewis Powell laid the groundwork for “diversity” admissions, Nieli points out. Powell wrote:

“A farm boy from Idaho can bring something to Harvard College that a Bostonian cannot offer. Similarly, a black student can usually bring something that a white person cannot offer.”

But the Ivy League doesn’t see Idaho farm boys or other red-staters as diverse. In most cases, extracurriculars help admission, especially for students in leadership roles, but that’s not true for Junior ROTC officers or 4-H or Future Farmers of America leaders, the study found. Excelling in these activities “is associated with 60 or 65 percent lower odds of admission.”

Update: New York Times columnist Ross Douthat cites Nieli and the Espenshade study  in The Roots of White Anxiety.

About Joanne


  1. dangermom says:

    Wow. By far, the largest club at my high school was the FFA. Hardly anyone went to college (300+ students in my class, >10 went directly to a 4-yr college). I got into the top state university, largely I think because I had been an exchange student, but I always assumed that my lackluster school had something to do with it as well. And maybe it did, who knows. But we were certainly a small-town school with a lot of FFA and ROTC kids.

    I just got a job at a local CC, and one requirement for the application was a written “diversity statement.” I had never heard of such a thing, but it turned out to be a personal essay describing how diverse one is. I poked around a bit, and the essays I found (mostly law school applications) were invariably descriptions of “How I was victimized as a child.” Those that did not feature racial discrimination were about growing up in poverty. I’m quite curious how common these are now and what people think of them. To me they look like prime BS opportunities for people willing to lie. (I refuse to write a pseudo-soul-baring pretend personal essay, so I mostly wrote about my professional ethics, which are actually relevant.)

  2. Well, these three certainly look like the kind of scum who shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near an Ivy League school, no matter how intelligent and hard-working they are.

    Please note: I’m kidding. I just did a Bing search for “FFA uniform” and this is what came up. At my school, the FFA kids have the coolest uniforms, with the same patch, but a foot across, on the back of the blue jacket. They’re generally good, hard-working kids, and likely to do well in college. I like seeing some of my Latin students showing their sheep, goats, pigs, and gigantic Black Angus steers at the Market Animal Show every spring.

  3. Even after admission, only certain kinds of diversity is appreciated in certain places. One of my kids was told (not asked) to leave an event sponsored by an Hispanic student group and which was advertised on posters all over campus. Despite fluent Spanish, she obviously wasn’t Hispanic and outsiders were not tolerated. She often attended Asian group events with her Filipino roommate and Hillel events with her Jewish friends, but her black friends said it wouldn’t be safe for her to come with them to black-sponsored events. Those kinds of experiences tend to lend clarity to a study which found that seniors had more negative views of (some) other races than did freshmen.

  4. Here’s a picture from last year’s Market Animal Show, which I attended. The top half may provide a hint of what colleges have against the 4-H Club and FFA.

  5. (1) Affirm action/diversity only plays a role in a relatively small fraction of colleges & universities (think the top 50 on the USNWR national universities and top 50 liberal arts colleges)… the vast, vast majority of colleges and universities will admit just about anyone.

    (2) I’ve been reading momof4’s comments for a while now… and I’m calling B.S. Specifically when momof4 says “wouldn’t be safe” for a white student to attend an event sponsored by a black student group… B.S. Yes, we know black students fly into violent rage when they see a white person… I am white, and have been active member in a number of latino and black organizations when I was in school, and was very much welcomed.

  6. Interesting…

    In this thread, momof4’s children has black friends who tell them “it wouldn’t be safe” to attend an event sponsored by black student groups…

    In a previous thread, momof4 claims her children’s black friends brag about not taking as many AP classes or having as good grades, but will still get into great colleges…

    I’ve seen this pattern in her earlier comments as well…

    Isn’t it convenient to her argument that it’s not she stating these facts, but black students confessing these “truths” to her children… a way for her to say inflammatory, unsubstantiated racist crap without actually saying it herself… her convenient excuse is that her children’s black friends are admitting these things… BULLSH*T.

  7. I am happy you have had such positive experiences, but it is neither necessary nor accurate to call others liars and racists because they have heard the comments I reported.

  8. So… jab is “very much welcomed” at the black and Hispanic events. I know this because s/he tells me this is true. But momof4? Must be BSing… because she had a different experience that wasn’t exactly like jab’s. In fact, it must be some elaborate scheme to post inflammatory blog comments.

    I’ve been reading jab’s comments for a day now… and I’m calling BS on his/her clairvoyant abilities and/or ability to see the deepest inner motivations of other posters.

  9. jab, who died and made you the race police?

    The only thing more asinine then racism is manufacturing racism over a few unflattering comments on a blog.

    Get over it already.

  10. Roger Sweeny says:


    You are absolutely right that there are lots of colleges that will admit just about anyone. For example, just about any community college. However, it is not true that “the vast, vast majority” will. There are many hundreds of schools where applying is no guarantee of getting in. This includes all the major state university campuses and nowadays even many of the state colleges.

  11. Roger, once you get out of the top 50 national universities or top 50 liberal arts colleges, the acceptance rates are all, with few exceptions, well above 50%, with average SAT scores barely above average, or even below.

  12. I tried to convince a Korean kid whom I tutored to attend the University of Allahabad for an undergraduate degree and then to apply to grad school at some plush East Coast university. It seemed to me he would thus push all possible diversity buttons (Non-caucasian, from outside of the continental US, foreign educated). It did not work. He will attend UC Irvine (E.E. major). Win some, lose some.

    While the racial discrimination which Joanne reports has costs, at least it confers the benefit that parents of rejected students will not have to pay inflated costs for bogus prestige.

    (Jab): “In this thread, momof4?s children has black friends who tell them ‘it wouldn’t be safe’ to attend an event sponsored by black student groups…
    …I’ve seen this pattern in her earlier comments as well…Isn’t it convenient to her argument that it’s not she stating these facts, but black students confessing these ‘truths’ to her children…a way for her to say inflammatory, unsubstantiated racist crap without actually saying it herself.”

    Why suppose that racially oriented organizations are less susceptible to clique mentality than ideological organizations like Ivy league universities? This calls for an experiment.

  13. superdestroyer says:


    Have you already forgotten the murder of black UCONN student Jasper Howard at an on-campus black only event?

    Do you really think that black students who are used to having black student unions, black only Greek organization, and black only professional organization are really going to tolerate whites intruding into their areas?

  14. SuperSub says:

    When I attended Cornell from 98-02 there was a flap on campus about a white student who attempted to attend a free, “open to any student” event held by the campus Black Program Center/Residence Hall. They were turned away.

  15. Roger Sweeny says:


    An acceptance rate above 50%, even “well above 50%,” doesn’t mean a school “will admit just about anyone.” For one thing, most people who don’t think they can get in don’t apply. It’s a waste of their time and money.

    Your assertion about SAT scores doesn’t sound accurate. There are thousands of colleges and universities in the United States. It is mathematically unlikely that only 100 of them are more than “barely above average.” (But, hey, I could be wrong. I don’t have the figures.)

  16. My daughter goes to University of Austin, a (super) selective state school. The Uni. is into ‘diversity’ in a big way, but it’s just like the article said, only a select few count. Under the ‘Top 10%’ rule in Texas if you graduate in the top 10 of your class you can go to any Texas school. My daughter says it seems to benefit many rural white kids from the country that Austin would never let in themselves. This year (class of ’11) Austin got to raise the bar to top 7%. Here in Texas however, the colleges all seem to appreciate ROTC and the Scouts (boy and girl), etc. When my daughter was a freshman they were required to go to a ‘diversity’ meeting and she garnered much applause when she stood up and told the organizer that everything they were talking about was just good manners and anyone in college already knew all that stuff anyway, having been force fed it since at least high school!

  17. SuperSub says:

    The SAT comment is perfectly reasonable if the top 100 universities admit nearly half of the nation’s college applicants.

  18. Richard Aubrey says:

    Why would you want to ruin perfectly good kids, FFA, 4H, ROTC, by putting them in Ivies?

  19. “Why would you want to ruin perfectly good kids, FFA, 4H, ROTC, by putting them in Ivies?”

    Thanks, Richard–needs to be said and you said it well.

  20. National universities just outside the top 50 according to USNWR… admissions rates are mostly above 50% near the top with a couple exceptions and in 70’s to 80’s near bottom… SATs are in 1200’s near top, 1100s near bottom… (this is on the recentered, renormed test in which average is around 1000). I was correct on admissions rates, but I admit I was a little off on SAT scores.

    However, I’m sure if you drop down to schools just outside the top 100… admissions rates will be well over 80% and SAT scores average. Schools just outside top 50 are still somewhat selective… but drop down another 30 spots, and it just is not that difficult to gain admission.

    Rank 52 Yeshiva University 66.5% 1235
    Rank 53 George Washington University 37.4% 1290
    Rank 53 Ohio State University–Columbus 62.3% 1230
    Rank 53 University of MD, CP 39.2% 1295
    Rank 56 Boston University 54.3% 1270
    Rank 56 University of Pittsburgh 55.4% 1260
    Rank 58 Pepperdine University 34.4% 1230
    Rank 58 Syracuse University 52.5% 1160
    Rank 58 University of Georgia 55.6% 1230
    Rank 61 Clemson University 53.8% 1220
    Rank 61 Fordham University 46.8% 1230
    Rank 61 Purdue University–West Lafayette71.5% 1160
    Rank 61 Texas A&M University 70.1% 1205
    Rank 61 University of Minnesota 52.5% 1250
    Rank 66 Rutgers, 55.8% 1200
    Rank 66 University of Connecticut 54.5% 1215
    Rank 68 Southern Methodist University 49.7% 1240
    Rank 68 University of Delaware 56.0% 1170
    Rank 68 Worcester Polytechnic Institute 66.9% 1285
    Rank 71 Brigham Young University–Provo 69.3% 1235
    Rank 71 Indiana University–Bloomington 70.7% 1175
    Rank 71 Michigan State University 70.0% 1140
    Rank 71 U. of California–Santa Cruz 71.7% 1150
    Rank 71 University of Iowa 82.3% 1195

  21. GoogleMaster says:

    @MRogow, is it possible that your daughter attends The University of Texas at Austin, the flagship campus of the largest university system in the state of Texas? I don’t know of a “University of Austin”. There’s Stephen F. Austin State University, but I wouldn’t describe it as terribly selective. There’s also an Austin College in Sherman, but it’s private, so I don’t think that’s what you’re referring to.

    The top 10% rule means that the top 10% of the students of the lowest performing high school in the worst school district in the state are automatically admitted to state universities. Meanwhile, at the highest performing public schools, where the 11-20% may all be multiple-AP, 4.0+ students, those who don’t make the 10% cut are leaving the state and boosting the brainpower of other states’ universities. The result, IMHO, is rather a dumbing-down of the better public universities of Texas, as those who only squeaked in by virtue of the top 10% rule end up washing out and wasting a spot that could have gone to a more capable student.

  22. While I wasn’t turned away from it, when I was in college a “multicultural” group got started in my dorm. I attended a few meetings before realizing “multicultural” was code for “people other than YOU” and decided to stop coming. I wasn’t turned away, but I was made to feel unwelcome.

    Whatever. I tend to do a Reverse Groucho Marx: I want no part of a group that doesn’t want me as a member.

  23. Roger Sweeny says:


    Acceptance rates are not a measure of selectivity. I’m sure you can imagine a country club, tells everyone “No blacks, no Indians, no Asians, no Latins, no Catholics, no Jews, no gays, no immigrants.” Last year, ten people applied for membership and nine got in, all white Anglo-Saxon Protestants with yearly incomes above 100K and net worth above 200K.

    The club’s 90% acceptance rate says nothing about how selective it is. It would be wrong to say that because the acceptance rate is 90%, “it just is not that difficult to gain admission.”


    You are, of course, right about the math. In that case, half the students would go to schools with above average SAT scores. If those schools were also “selective”, it would mean that half the students had to deal with a selective admissions process.


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