NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Race-Neutrality Would Result in Fewer Minority Admissions

April 23, 2003

If students were admitted strictly based on test scores and grades, the number of underrepresented minorities at selective institutions would shrink, say associations representing medical and law schools.

For example, at the University of Michigan's Law School:

  • Students are admitted who average 165 on the Law School Admissions Test and a grade-point average of 3.5.
  • Of 4,461 applicants that met those scores, only 29 were black and 114 were Hispanic.
  • Without race-conscious admissions, the number of African Americans in an entering class of 350 would fall below 10, says the dean of Michigan's law school, instead of a typical range from 21 to 37.

Some affirmative action opponents favor so-called economic affirmative action -- giving people with disadvantaged backgrounds an edge. In states where racial preferences have been banned -- among them California, Texas, Florida, Mississippi, Georgia and Washington -- universities are expanding recruitment, instituting programs to improve minority student achievement and are giving preferences to students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

These efforts have restored significant racial diversity to all but the most selective undergraduate programs. The Century Foundation projects that implementing economic affirmative action at the nation's most selective 146 colleges would cause only a small drop in minority undergraduates.

But despite economic affirmative action at the University of California's law and medical schools, minority admissions have dropped because middle- and upper-class blacks and Hispanics score significantly lower than low-income white and Asian students. For example:

  • In 2001, underrepresented minorities from families with incomes of $80,000 or more averaged 21.9 on the Medical School Admission Test.
  • Whites and Asians from families with incomes below $30,000 averaged 25.7 and 25.5, respectively.

Thus, the proportion of minorities in first-year medical and law school classes fell from over 20 percent in 1996 to between 16 and 17 percent this year.

Source: Michael A. Fletcher, "Wider Fallout Seen from Race-Neutral Admissions," Washington Post, April 19, 2003.


Browse more articles on Education Issues