Affirmative action for affluent applicants

Voters in California will be asked to decide if the ban on affirmative action should be lifted just weeks after the state auditor said that the UC system admitted dozens of well-connected applicants over their better qualified peers (“University of California Admitted Dozens of Less Qualified but Well-Connected Students, State Auditor Finds,” The Wall Street Journal, Sept. 23). The majority of the 64 such students were white and at least half came from families with average annual incomes of $150,000 or more.

The audit continues the debate over fairness and the role of money in the wake of the Varsity Blues scandal. It’s hard to know if the latest report will change attitudes.  Supporters of affirmative action have long maintained that the rich and famous have been the beneficiaries of preferential treatment in admissions.  The state audit seems to reinforce their argument. In other words, privilege prevails over merit.

I see no way of satisfying both sides of the issue.  Even relying strictly on standardized test scores will not settle the debate because disadvantaged students don’t have the same wherewithal to prep for the tests.

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2 Replies to “Affirmative action for affluent applicants”

  1. A college’s admissions decisions will inevitably be driven by the college’s needs. Each college has its own mix of common needs — $ (short-term and long-term), prestige (athletic, academic, social), political (particularly for govt-funded colleges), obligations to society, obligations to alumni, satisfying the whims of the current college administration, satisfying the whims of the current college board of trustees.

    It will rarely — probably never — be the case that a given set of admission criteria will provide maximum benefits to all of a college’s particularly mix of needs. The college will always have to strike a balance between competing needs. It follows that it will rarely be the case that any of the criteria that a college adopts will be an absolute (at least in practice).


  2. Labor Lawyer: I agree that each school has its own unique needs for admission. But racial quotas should not be one of them unless those in the racial group possess the wherewithal to handle college work.


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