The Corner


The Admissions Scandal and Racial Preferences

Students on the campus of Harvard University in 2009 (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

The recent revelation concerning college admissions is disconcerting, but not any more than racial preferences in admissions.

As Roger Clegg notes below, the Left, never letting a scandal go to waste, immediately leapt on the admissions scandal as a justification for racial preferences. The disingenuousness of their argument is matched only by its incoherence.

Ever since Grutter v. Michigan, the lie about racial preferences is that a college applicant’s race is only considered as a flexible plus factor, a mere feather on the scale, in the admissions process. The truth, however, is that in nearly every case race is not a feather on the scale, but an anvil. At some universities race renders a black or Hispanic applicant not 10 percent more likely to be admitted over a similarly situated white or Asian comparative; not even 15 percent more likely to be admitted. Rather, at some selective schools the racial preference makes black and Hispanic applicants up to 500 times more likely to be admitted than similarly situated white and Asian applicants.

As Stuart Taylor notes, during the discovery process in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard  (the pending complaint brought by Asian students alleging racial discrimination in Harvard’s admissions program) documents produced by Harvard showed that the average combined SAT scores of Asian students admitted between 2010 — 2015 were 218 points higher than those of black admittees.

That’s Harvard, which attracts applications from, ostensibly, the most gifted high school students, regardless of race, in the country. At other prestigious schools the admissions preferences for black and Hispanic students are the equivalent of  adding a full 400 points to their respective SAT scores. The weight added to black and Hispanic GPAs often is just as profound.

How does someone with a 1100 combined SAT score and a 3.0 GPA compete against someone with a 1500 SAT and 3.86 GPA? Not very well. That’s a major reason why black and Hispanic students are far more likely to cluster in the bottom quartile of their respective classes and far more likely not to graduate. This, despite rampant grade inflation and watered down curricula.

The fraud and corruption revealed by the recent admissions scandal is only a very small part of the problem with college admissions. A major correction is necessary, beginning with transparency.

Peter Kirsanow — Peter N. Kirsanow is an attorney and a member of the United States Commission on Civil Rights.

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