Monday, June 11, 2012

To Enroll More Minority Students, Colleges Work Around the Courts

The Supreme Court is likely to restrict what colleges can do vis-à-vis affirmative action:

With its decision to take up racial preferences in admissions at public colleges, the Supreme Court has touched off a national guessing game about how far it might move against affirmative action and how profoundly colleges might change as a result.

But no matter how the court acts, recent history shows that when courts or new laws restrict affirmative action, colleges try to find other ways to increase minority admissions.

The aggressiveness of those efforts, and the results, vary widely by state, but generally they increase minority enrollment — though not as much as overt affirmative action once did. And they have tended to help Hispanic applicants far more than blacks, at least partly because of the demographics of the states where they have been tried.

Texas and a few others, for instance, compare students with their high school classmates, rather than with all applicants, resulting in more enrollment from poor communities. Washington is among the states that give added credit in the admissions process to students who come from poor families or excel at troubled schools.

Other colleges have spent more time recruiting in underrepresented communities. And the University of California system tries to weigh a student's life beyond grades and test scores — which, critics say, sometimes amounts to giving racial preferences without acknowledging them.

Even if the Supreme Court limits the options, college and universities will "be seeking diversity by any legal means possible," said Ada Meloy, general counsel of the American Council on Education.


To Enroll More Minority Students, Colleges Work Around the Courts

Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Maura Sullivan protested a bake sale held in opposition to affirmative action at the University of California, Berkeley.

Published: April 1, 2012

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