Should race-based affirmative action be used in college admissions?

March 3, 2022

Pro: Race-based affirmative action promotes acceptance and diversity

Today, majority nonwhite school districts get less than $23 billion in funding than majority white districts, despite having the same amount of students, according to EdBuild

Almost 70 years since the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that racial segregation in schools was unconstitutional, the United States remains segregated on socioeconomic lines. Considering the disparities in educational opportunities for minority students, many educational institutions consider factors like a student’s racial background—often tied with a student’s economic status—to create a fairer admissions system. This method of considering a student’s racial background is called race-based affirmative action, which should continue to be used in college admissions as it develops a holistic approach when reviewing applications and helps support campus diversity.

Minority groups in the United States are disproportionately affected by poverty, creating inequities in educational attainment. According to a 2019 study published by the U.S. Census Bureau, though African-Americans make up about 13.2 percent of the nation’s population, they made up 23.8 percent of the poverty population. Furthermore, Hispanics composed 28.1 percent of the poverty population, while only making up 18.7 percent of the population. Income disparities create gaps in minority students’ abilities to afford resources to make them stand out from other applicants. Being “well-rounded,” a criteria most colleges look for, means having access to resources and programs not available to everyone, particularly lower-class students. Universities should consider the impact one’s racial and economic background has on their educational experience.

With the increase of racial diversity in the United States, universities and higher-level educational institutions should reflect that growth; affirmative action helps support that diversity. According to a journal published by the University of Washington, when affirmative action programs were banned, there were 23 percent fewer minority students that were accepted into competitive colleges, illustrating affirmative action’s effects on diversity. Additionally, diversity has many positive impacts on other students’ education aside from reducing racial bias. It also helps foster self-confidence, creativity and productivity which can improve one’s economic outcomes, according to American Progress. When university campuses lack diversity, it not only prepares students to accept a one-sided view of American society, but deprives students of the experience to see a unique aspect of the United States that most countries lackits fastly growing diaspora of different ethnic groups and enclaves.

Many argue that affirmative action prioritizes race over a student’s merit. However, many fail to consider that the admissions system in itself is inherently flawed. According to an editorial piece written by the Harvard Crimson, the acceptance rate for legacies in the years 2014 to 2019 was 33 percent compared to Harvard’s overall acceptance rate of just six percent. This unfair process, which often benefits white and upper-middle class students, indicates that the admissions system is in itself unjust and wrong. Furthermore, many fail to consider the harmful effects of removing affirmative action. Since California’s ban on affirmative action for admission decisions, rates of college acceptance for black, Latino and Native students have been decreasing, according to EdSource. Without being able to use race as a factor, the UC system has been unable to target and determine which communities are being underrepresented, according to research by the University of California. Universities should consider the unfair systems that are deeply entrenched within their institutions rather than challenge a system that aims to correct decades of intergenerational racism. 

American educator Horace Mann once said “Education is the great equalizer of the conditions of man.” But in a society plagued with socioeconomic inequalities worsened by racial prejudice and disparities, Mann’s optimistic statement becomes clouded with these harsh and unsettling realities. Affirmative action aims to correct these inequalities, giving minorities equal footing and access to education by offering a holistic approach to students’ applications and increasing diversity.

“Affirmative action has negatively affected people, primarily Asians, due to the fact that many times we have had instances of reverse discrimination. At the same time, it has vastly benefited other ethnic minorities and provided them access to higher quality education or higher education. It’s a double edged sword, and I would argue that it’s been used as a political football for both sides of the political spectrum. I’m hoping that we elect the best and brightest politicians to make the right choice in the future.”

Daniel Chen, English teacher


About the Writer
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Una Santos, Staff Writer

Una Santos is a senior and staff writer for El Vaquero. Santos is also on the social media team and a photographer. This is her first year on staff.

Con: Race-based affirmative action prompts injustice and inequity

On average Asian-Americans that apply to elite colleges must score 140 points more than a white applicant, 270 points more than a Hispanic applicant, and 450 points more than an African-American applicant on the School Aptitude Test (SAT), according to a study published by Princeton University Press

In 2003 through Grutter v. Bollinger, the Supreme Court legalized race-based affirmative action for institutions of higher education to use race as an admissions factor. Recently, the Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) challenged Harvard University and the University of North Carolina to overrule the court case from nearly twenty years ago. Race-based affirmative action should be eliminated due to its injustice toward Asian-Americans and inequities based on race.

 Affirmative action may increase representation from some minority groups like Latinos and African-Americans, but the policy discriminates against Asian-American and Pacific Islander applicants. The SFFA alleged, “Harvard penalizes [Asian-Americans] because, according to its admissions office, they lack leadership and confidence and are less likable and kind.” Statistics show that Asian-Americans are discriminated against under these negative stereotypes. A white student could score 23 on the American College Test (ACT) and get accepted, while an Asian-American student would need to score 27, according to The Heritage Foundation. Regardless of who has a higher academic performance, prestigious universities place too heavy of an emphasis on diversifying their campus that they go to the extent of discrimination.

 Race-based affirmative action has placed Asian-Americans at a disadvantage because of their ethnicity, violating the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on race under programs that are federally funded, according to the Library of Congress. Public schools and multiple private educational institutions are financially supported by the government, meaning that they have to follow through with the Civil Rights Act. For example, Ivy League schools are exempt from paying taxes because they are nonprofit, according to Forbes. They’ve also initiated programs that are funded through taxpayer money. Since schools receive benefits from the government, Title VI applies to them. Race-based affirmative action cannot stand when it contravenes an important civil rights law. 

Schools implement race-based affirmative action because they claim that it increases diversity on campus. Yet, multiple colleges and universities who have already banned the policy have seen an increase of minorities, because they have seeked different factors to welcome them. According to Berkeley News, the University of California Berkeley -which does not have an affirmative action policy due to California law- have been admitting California Dream Act filers, first-generation college students, and applicants who struggle socioeconomically in order to diversify incoming classes. Berkeley’s class of 2021 was the most ethnically diverse in over 30 years and still managed to focus on academic success having a high average GPA score of 3.91. It is a matter of considering alternatives to race-based affirmative action, which can create a diverse environment in schools and keep up academic standards at the same time. 

The significant factors in college admissions should be academic success and extracurriculars because students put a lot of effort and time into creating an impressive resume. However, race-based affirmative action contradicts that by allowing unfair admissions and placing Asian Americans at a disadvantage. Admissions based on race should be abolished in order for qualified applicants to get accepted into their dream school and achieve their lifetime goals, regardless of their racial background.






“I think that race shouldn’t be a factor into getting into schools, or applying for jobs. It’s genuinely unfair to minorities to have their race and gender be a consideration of the opportunities they receive.”

Rojein Mahmoudi, sophomore





About the Writer
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Angela Rebolledo, Staff Writer

Angela Rebolledo is a junior and a staff writer for El Vaquero. Rebolledo is also a photographer, on the art team and a copy editor. This is her first year on staff.

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