Mismatch in college admissions

When students are admitted to elite colleges and universities in the name of diversity even though they are not well qualified academically, they are being set up to fail (“The WSJ and the 1 Percent,” The Weekly Standard, Nov. 7).  The latest evidence was on display in the recently concluded lawsuit accusing Harvard of racial discrimination against Asian applicants.

According to an internal report, if strict merit were the only basis for admission to Harvard, Asians would make up 43 percent of the freshman class.  Meanwhile, less than one percent of black students would be granted admission using the same criterion.  As a result, blacks struggle more than they would at less selective schools.  If so, how is granting them admission solely on the basis of increasing diversity helping them?  The only basis for admission should be the ability of students to do the work.

But what about athletes and legacies?  They are pointed to as evidence that pure merit is not the only factor considered in admission.  Critics are correct.  I understand why these two groups, along with racial minorities, are given special treatment in the admissions process. But two wrongs do not make a right.

On the heels of the recent Harvard lawsuit comes another one against the University of California system.  It alleges that the system violated state law by reintroducing race as a factor in admissions.  (California has banned affirmative action in colleges and universities since 1996.)  The suit was brought by Richard Sander, professor at the UCLA School of Law who is a proponent of the mismatch theory.

Colleges and universities do not help academically unqualified applicants when they admit them.  The blow to their self-esteem when they find out they can’t handle the work often haunts them for life.  They would be far better served by applying to less academically rigorous schools

(To post a comment, click on the title of this blog.)

2 Replies to “Mismatch in college admissions”

  1. And, there is the somewhat opposite concern — that is, that, if less-qualified blacks are accepted to promote diversity, then students, faculty, and future employers will doubt the abilities/achievements of the fully-qualified blacks who are accepted and would have been accepted w/o the diversity boost.

    Not sure I’d go as far as you implicitly suggest — that is, basing all admissions decisions on GPA/SAT scores (or other measures of academic ability/achievement). I’d take into account an applicant’s SES status and give at least a slight boost to a low-SES applicant who had only slightly below acceptance-level GPA/SAT scores. Recognize that this approach poses somewhat the same danger of the accepted low-SES applicant being unable to do the work, but 1) it’s more likely that a low-SES applicant is brighter than his/her GPA/SAT scores than that a black applicant is brighter than his/her GPA/SAT scores; and 2) it will be harder for students, faculty and future employers to doubt the abilities/achievements of fully-qualified low-SES applicants (since an applicant’s low-SES status is not as readily discernible as an applicant’s race).

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  2. Labor Lawyer: All that should matter is the ability of applicants to handle rigorous work. Diversity should not be the No. 1 concern, but it seems it is. The harm done to under- qualified students undermines their self-confidence. That goes for all races.

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