NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Problems With College Admissions "Percentage Plans"

April 14, 2003

The U.S. Supreme Court is considering whether the use of racial preferences in college admissions is constitutional. The University of Michigan is defending its admissions system, which automatically awards the equivalent of 20 points of the 95 to 100 points needed to specific minorities. An applicant's grade point average, regardless of the quality of the high school attended, counts for 80 of the points needed. Standardized tests (SAT or ACT) count for a maximum of 12 points.

The Bush Administration argues that "race-neutral" percentage plans used by Texas, Florida and California can help achieve racial diversity. These plans require the automatic acceptance to high school students who finish in the top 10 percent or 20 percent of their high school classes -- thus making grade point average the sole admissions criterion.

Colleges around the country are already incorporating variations of the percentage plans in their admissions policies by making grade point averages a more dominant factor. Consequently, high schools are reporting that some of their students are eschewing honors and Advanced Placement classes, and are instead taking less rigorous classes in an attempt to get higher grade point averages.

  • For example, an admissions official at Virginia Tech predicted that once high schools students and their parents figure out the system, the number of high school students taking honors and Advanced Placement classes will quickly "fall in half."
  • And a University of Michigan admissions counselor advises applicants to limit the number of advanced classes to a maximum of four to five during high school, and to attempt to take these classes in their senior year when it's too late for the grades to affect their chances of admission.

Source: "Poll Finds Little Support For University Of Michigan's Use Of Race Preferences," White House Bulletin, April 11, 2003.


Browse more articles on Education Issues