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College Payoffs and Affirmative Action


Ramesh: There’s also a racial angle to this, of course. The use of racial preferences at selective schools (where, indeed, they are most heavily weighted) is frequently defended on the grounds that one must have an Ivy League diploma in order to be really successful in life. Trouble is, it turns out that (a) this is not true, and (b) admitting someone to a school where they are less qualified than everyone else may actually be bad thing for his or her career, not a good thing. For instance, last year’s book Increasing Faculty Diversity by Stephen Cole and Elinor Barber suggests that racial preferences have steered many students to schools where they end up getting lower grades that had they gone elsewhere, and this is one reason for the shortage of blacks and Latinos in academia. (Ironically, the book was funded by the liberal Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which tried to distance itself from the book’s findings.)


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