Mismatch in college admissions

In an attempt to diversify their student bodies, which SCOTUS said meets a “compelling state interest,” colleges have admitted black and Hispanic students with lower test scores than those of other races (“In California, the Dream of Racial Preferences Never Dies,” The Wall Street Journal, May 20).  Nevertheless, voters in California passed Prop. 209 in 1996 that banned consideration of race and gender in public education.

Although critics said that black and Hispanic enrollment would virtually evaporate at the state’s most elite schools, that hasn’t happened.  In fact, their overall enrollment in the UC system has dramatically risen above pre- Prop. 209’s level.

But I think there is more to the story than their sheer numbers.  I’m referring now to the non-cognitive effects.  Yes, graduating from elite schools certainly is an achievement.  But at what price?  When black and Hispanic students find that their grades and class rankings are below their classmates, what does that do to their self-esteem?

Richard Sander at UCLA’s law school attempted to answer that question in a co-written book “Mismatch: How Affirmative Action Hurts Students It’s Intended to Help, and Why Universities Won’t Admit It.”  Since then, he seems to have changed his mind.  I’d be interested in learning why.

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

2 Replies to “Mismatch in college admissions”

  1. Think that one would have to be a black or Hispanic to reliably answer the very valid question — that is, to what extent does it harm one’s self-image/self-esteem if you have relatively weak high school credentials, are admitted to a very academically competitive college based on race-based preference, and then you get relatively low grades at the college.

    Speaking from the white perspective, it seems likely that the white students at a very academically competitive college — who see black/Hispanic students receiving, on average, lower-than-average grades and/or falling short in class participation skills — will take away from those observations the conclusion that black/Hispanic graduates of that college are not as smart as white graduates of that college. Extrapolating from “that college” to society in general, those white college graduates will go through life believing — at least implicitly — that black graduates from any particular college are not as smart as white graduates from that same college. I’d argue that it this latter — rational — prejudice growing out of college affirmative action programs that poses the greatest long-term dangers to black college graduates.


  2. Labor Lawyer: I agree with this takeaway. The best of intentions often have unintended consequences. For example, to what extent are graduates of law or medical schools fully qualified? Were they admitted based on their qualifications or to meet a quota? As a result, these graduates must also question their own worth under the circumstances.


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