This essay was assigned to be written from the perspective of a Merit matters advocate, and does not necessarily represent the views of the author.
A Second Look at the Winning Race
Our nation claims to be one of racial equality, but giving students a benefit in the admissions process for higher education institutions based on one’s race is purely unequal. College and University admissions should be based off of merit: those students who have the capability to succeed both inside and outside the classroom. In no way should merit pertain to the color of one’s skin or the money one has. However, these two factors have become an overwhelmingly large part of the admissions process and specifically a significant part of a simulation done for an elite, private institution.
Although one may argue that the admissions system used at The College was legal, due to some doubt, removal of a diversity rating used would result in a completely legal and fair system. By enacting a merit based plan and adapting a percentage plan, accepting students based on their ranking in their class, the College would still be able to take into account racial and socioeconomic differences without explicitly doing so when looking at the applicants in the office, and by doing so creating equal educational opportunities for all students.
In the classes stimulation, the decisions of the admissions officers seemed to have resulted in an outcome promoting equal educational opportunity. During these decisions, the officers considered the most qualified students who could pay for the tuition as well as those who were not as socioeconomically well off. However, those who were a certain race or could afford more of the tuition were looked at more closely, creating an unequal playing ground for all applicants. The College admissions should have had a more color- blind process. By having a “race blind” admissions process, students are judged based on merit, accepting the most prestigious and academically qualified students.
During the simulation, students of a race other than Caucasian were looked at with a different eye than those students who were white. Because these students were given an advantage, the admissions process was not completely fair, and could be argued as either legal or illegal. Students were rated on a scale of 1-3 based on diversity as part of a grand total rating, giving ethnic students an upper edge. This idea of giving students a higher rating in the admissions process of higher educational institutions has been brought to the attention of the courts before and schools such as University of Michigan and University of California Berkeley have been brought under public eye because of race conscious practices. In each case, a student was denied access the university and challenged that the admissions favored those of unique ethnic and racial backgrounds. In the Michigan case, the court ruled that the admissions office cannot give students of certain races extra points, but can make diversity a goal for the incoming class (Gratz v. Bollinger). Since the term “diversity” was not specifically defined in the simulation, it is hard to decide whether it is legal or illegal, thus it should be removed from the system all together.
The point of a higher education institution is education itself, therefore the students who are most academically fit deserve admissions, which should have nothing to do with race. As Leslie Killgore states, “A student-centric perspective defines college as both reward and opportunity for students of high ability” and that “admission to elite colleges is awarded to students as a function of their increasingly meritorious achievements” (Killgore 470). Killgore believes that admissions should look past race and admit students based on merit and ability, which is what the College’s admissions should have done when choosing who to admit and waitlist in the simulation. The idea behind race- neutral admissions is taking into account other aspects beside race, which may in turn benefit those who are racially diverse, but does not “exclude” those who are not (Coleman 4).
Although nothing was done illegally when considering financial aid and admission into the College, there are ways in which the decision was made unfairly, thus leading to unequal educational opportunities. On multiple occasions, students who were deserving of a spot in the College were not given the chance because of the amount of financial aid need. After admitting the first student, Caitlin Quinn, the number one applicant and a free student for the college, the admissions officers began to look for a second and third possibility. Applicants such as Rosa Martinez and Paula Nunes were initially overlooked because of the amount of financial aid they would need, 47740 dollars and 52219 dollars respectively (“4th Round Review”). Both applicants displayed outstanding academics and extracurricular activities and were ranked numbers three and five respectively out of all of the applicants in the simulation. As a result of the admissions officers choosing to skip over Rosa and Paula, Jazmine Hope- Martin and Daniel Juberi were offered a spot (“4th Round Review).
Despite the discrepancies and at times, unfair decisions, the class itself is diverse both socioeconomically and racially, however, the admissions office did not always provide the students with equal educational opportunities. A student, no matter what race or ethnicity, should be offered admissions regardless of aid need, solely based on merit. After admitting Caitlin Quinn, the admissions officers began to jump around the ranking list because of the amount of financial aid need a student needed or because of the goal of diversity, whether or not the student had a good resume. After brushing over Rosa Martinez and Paula Nunes, the officers chose Jazmine Hope- Martin solely because she needed the least amount of final aid out of herself, Paula and Rosa and because she would be awarded the merit scholarship based on her standardized test score, making her financial aid need go down significantly. After Jazmine was chosen, the officers began to look at the bottom of the list in an attempt to admit a student with a unique ethnic background, ignoring academic accomplishments. Although on the surface the incoming class seems to be diverse, the process itself did not provide deserving students with equal educational opportunities.
There are ways in which a college admissions team can make sure the incoming class is both diverse and academically qualified. In 2000, the Florida State Board of Education “banned consideration of race in admissions decisions for the state’s higher education institutions” (Fryer 2). At the same time, they implemented the “Talented 20 Program” which guarantees those students who graduate the 20% of their class at a Florida public school and take either the SATs or ACTs a spot at one of the “eleven state universities” (Fryer 2). By implementing this program, students all over the state, regardless of race and socioeconomic status, are given a spot at a state university, given the fact that they are within the top 20% of their class. No matter what public high school, either in a wealthy area or impoverished area, those students who perform well are offered admissions and thus given an equal educational opportunity, no matter what walks of life. By executing such a plan, the incoming class is one filled with diversity without skipping over certain applicants or giving others an upper edge. Although this is harder to do at a smaller institution, such as the college, it shows that there are successful, fair ways to disregard race in the admissions process and get a diverse, academically suitable class.
It is understandable that colleges feel pressure to admit both the brightest and academically fit students and a diverse class, however, there is a point in the admissions process in which the way certain applicants are looked over others is unfair and at times, illegal. Although the admissions officers of the simulation of The College tried to uphold the laws and regulations of admissions, some aspects of this process were questionable, creating a bias towards those of different races and creating a class not solely based on merit and not giving all applying students an equal opportunity of admissions.
Coleman, Arthur L., Scott R. Palmer, and Steven Y. Winnick. “Race-Neutral Policies in Higher Education: From Theory to Action.” CollegeBoard, June 2008. Web. 30 Sept. 2013.
“4th Round Review.” Trinity College, Sept. 2013. Web. 29 Sept. 2013. <http://commons.trincoll.edu/colorandmoney>.
Fryer, Roland G., Glenn C. Loury, and Tolga Yuret. Color-blind Affirmative Action. Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research, 2003. Web. 30 Sept. 2013.
Gratz v. Bollinger. Cornell University Law School. Supreme Court. 23 June 2003. Legal Information Institute. Cornell University Law School, Web. 30 Sept. 2013.
Killgore, Leslie. “Merit And Competition In Selective College Admissions.” Review Of Higher Education 32.4 (2009): 469-488. ERIC. Web. 30 Sept. 2013.