NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Looking Beyond Affirmative Action

March 31, 2003

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments tomorrow that will challenge race-preference policies at the University of Michigan. Many observers anticipate the court will curb preferences and are wondering what effect that will have on minority enrollments at U.S. colleges and universities.

Blacks and Hispanics currently make up 12 percent of enrollment at elite colleges. A study by testing experts looked at how that percentage would change if affirmative action ended and 'race-neutral' policies went into effect:

  • Admission based on grades and test scores only would reduce some minorities' enrollment to 4 percent of the total at selective schools.
  • Automatic admission for the top 10 percent in class rank would reduce minority admissions to 12 percent.
  • Selection by lottery of all students with minimum 900 SAT score would result in a 9 percent admission rate for minority students.

Black and Hispanic enrollments would fall only slightly, to 10 percent, if affirmative action were replaced by preferences for students of low socioeconomic status -- as measured by such factors as parental income and education and percent of students qualifying for free or reduced-price lunches at the applicant's high school.

Students in the bottom quarter of U.S. society constitute only 3 percent of enrollments at these colleges -- compared with 74 percent for the top quarter.

Source: Daniel Golden, "What If Affirmative Action in Education Ends?" Wall Street Journal, March 31, 2003.

For text (WSJ subscription required),,SB104906938428478400-search,00.html


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