The more elusive that the evidence of affirmative action’s success becomes, the more determined that the advocates of racial preferences in college admissions get in their quest to expand the program. “For the percentage of high school graduates to the percentage of college freshmen who are people of color the ideal ratio is one,” Danette Gerald of the Education Trust said recently in a telephone conference call.
“We don’t focus on the traditional measurements of success such as SAT scores but on how well the colleges are serving the community,” Gerald explained. She is the co-author, with Kati Haycock, of a new report by the Trust entitled Engines of Inequality: Diminishing Equity in the Nation’s Premier Public Universities. Haycock also works for the Trust.
“Even as the number of low-income and minority high school graduates in their states grows, often by leaps and bounds, these institutions are becoming proportionately whiter and richer,” the ladies allege. Gerald and Haycock do make some good points but the spin that they put on the data obscures the real problem.
“Arguably, the flagships have a lot of money—much of it raised through frequent tuition hikes—to spend on student financial aid,” they write. “What these institutions actually spend on financial aid dwarfs the amounts their students receive from either federal or state sources [italics in original].”
“In addition, the flagships have virtually unfettered discretion to decide which students will benefit from tuition assistance and how much each student will receive.” So far, so good, as far as the data go, but then they try to show that the flagships are now on their way to spending more on aid to the wealthy than they do on assistance to the needy.
“From 1995 to 2003, aid to families that made more than $100, 000 went up from $50 million to $270 million while aid to families that made less than $40,000 only went up by $75 million,” Haycock said in the phone conference. Yet, according to their report, “At the same time, spending on students from families making $40,000 per year or less increased by only $75 million, from $384 to $460 million.”
Thus, to take their own numbers, the flagships are spending $460 million on aid to families who make less than $40,000 annually and $270 million on aid to families who make more than $100,000. But wait till you see the grades they give some of those universities.
Berkeley gets an F for minority access and a B for minority success, as did more than a fifth of the state flagship schools the ladies studied including:
University of Colorado at Boulder
University of Connecticut
University of Delaware
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
University of Maryland at College Park
University of Michigan at Ann Arbor
University of Missouri at Columbia
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
University of Nevada at Reno
University of Oklahoma Norman Campus
University of South Carolina at Columbia
University of Texas at Austin
Minority access simply assesses the number of people of color admitted to the college or university. “Minority success is gauged by looking at the 6-year graduation rate,” Gerald explained.
Hence, their survey does not contradict the contention of former University of California trustee Ward Connerly. Connerly claims that, after California voters banned race preferences in college admissions, the blacks who did get into Berkeley were more likely to graduate than people of color under a quota system while those that did not could get a chance at another university such as his alma mater—Sacramento State.
He spearheaded the effort to get the ban on the ballot and has worked on a similar initiative recently in Michigan that was also successful.
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