NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

University of Michigan Preferences Under Fire

December 22, 1997

For years administrators at the University of Michigan claimed they did not give preferences to minorities in admissions. But now UM may be the next major university to repeal affirmative action, according to New Republic magazine.

Last summer philosophy professor Carl Cohen forced the university to release its admissions data using the Freedom of Information Act. The data prove Michigan has radically lower standards for blacks than whites:

  • The university's admissions chart -- which indicates whether to accept or reject candidates with a given grade-point average and standardized test score -- has separate lines for "underrepresented minorities."
  • According to the chart, a white or Asian applicant with a grade point average between 3.2 and 3.3 and an SAT score between 1,090 and 1,190 would be automatically deferred, while an underrepresented minority with the same credentials would be automatically accepted.
  • Two white students denied admission despite strong credentials promptly sued the university for racial discrimination, and some observers say they are likely to win.

In practice, UM's system of preferences hurts students it is designed to help: black students at UM are two-and-a-half times more likely than whites not to graduate within six years. Thus some of the lowest scoring students admitted there would stand a better chance of success at Michigan State University, which has lower entrance requirements.

Affirmative action supporters have undermined the case for any type of preference, say observers, by setting up programs in secret, denying they exist and, when they are disclosed, claiming "race is not the determining factor."

Source: Jonathan Chait, "Numbers Racket," New Republic, December 22, 1997.


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