NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Racial Preferences Don't Help Students Graduate

June 11, 1997

Just how prevalent were race-based preferences in the University of California school system before the California Civil Rights Initiative? A study from the Center for Equal Opportunity provides what the authors say is clear evidence of racial preferences in undergraduate admissions at the University of California at San Diego in 1995.

  • Of whites rejected by UCSD, 34.8 percent had both math and verbal SAT scores equal to or higher than the median scores of African-Americans enrolled at UCSD.
  • Of Asian-Americans, 64.9 percent, or 1,909 applicants, were rejected even though their math SAT scores were equal to or higher than the median of enrolled African-Americans.

Apart from the unfairness of using non-merit-based criteria in the selection process, these preferences actually hurt the very people they are intended to help, say analysts. That is because they are admitted to a university for which they are not academically prepared:

  • UCSD graduation rates show that student groups with lower SAT scores are less likely to have earned a degree five years later.
  • The graduation rate of African-Americans entering UCSD in 1989 was 41 percent, compared with 72 percent for Asian-Americans and 76 percent for whites. If admissions were colorblind, black enrollment would decline at four institutions and Hispanic enrollment would decline at two. But enrollment of either group of students probably would not decline at the eight other institutions in the system, since their test scores would be sufficient for admission.

Analysts suggest that black students with lower scores on admission tests would be better off at institutions with lower admission requirements -- where they are more likely to graduate within five years.

Source: Robert Lerner and Althea K. Nagai, "Racial Preferences at U.C. San Diego," Wednesday, June 11, 1997, Center for Equal Opportunity, 815 15th Street, NW, Suite 928, Washington, DC 20004, (202) 639-0803.


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