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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

If colleges can't use race for admissions, what happens?

The U.S. Supreme Court to end racial preferences in college admissions, very soon, just about everyone predicts. So what happens next?

Give preferences to low-income and working-class students -- backed by generous financial aid -- rather than linking preferences to race, argues Richard D. Kahlenberg, who's writing a book, Class Matters: Imagining a Fairer and Less Divisive Future for Higher Education.

President Biden could appeal to minority voters and to working-class whites by "strongly endorsing class-based affirmative action," he writes.

"Class-conscious admission models could result in more racial diversity than the current system, but only if all selective colleges used them, and, at the same time, considered a much larger and more diverse pool of applicants for admissions and stopped admissions policies that now favor legacies, the children of big donors, and athletes," concludes a new Georgetown University report.

If that doesn't happen -- Georgetown isn't optimistic -- the fallback is to improve K-12 education so low-income and non-Asian minority students have a better shot at competing for limited seats at selective colleges.

The report calls this a "retreat."

It is much, much harder to improve K-12 education than to let the not-so-well-educated into selective colleges. Maybe it's impossible. But shouldn't we be trying?

Many selective colleges have gone SAT/ACT optional or stopped looking at test scores entirely. The shift to subjective criteria -- grades are so inflated they're virtually worthless -- makes it easier to hide bias against high-scoring Asian-American students.

"Privately, leaders of college associations say their members’ instinct is to try to 'get around' the expected anti-affirmative action decisions by considering applicant 'adversity' as a way to replicate the racial composition they now achieve on campus, writes Michael Dannenberg on Yahoo.

One of my daughter's college roommates came to the U.S. as a 12-year-old speaking no English. I think she got into UCLA by acing her math SATs. Her father was a cook at a diner. But she was Chinese.

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