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Exploring Alternatives to Affirmative Action: Colleges Seek Solutions to Maintain Diversity Goals

by Ryan Lee
5 comments
affirmative action alternatives

In light of the Supreme Court’s ruling against affirmative action, colleges across the United States are facing challenges in achieving the diversity they deem crucial for their campuses. To replace affirmative action, various strategies have been implemented by colleges from California to Florida. Some institutions have prioritized applicants from low-income families, while others have embraced a policy of admitting top students from every community in their respective states.

However, years of experimentation, often triggered by state-level bans on considering race in admissions, have failed to produce a definitive solution. In states where race-neutral policies were mandated, many colleges witnessed a decline in enrollment among Black and Hispanic students, particularly at selective institutions that historically had predominantly white student bodies.

Now that the Supreme Court has eliminated the consideration of race in college admissions, universities nationwide are grappling with the same challenge. Experts and educators have expressed concerns that this development could undo decades of progress in promoting diversity on campus.

In response to the Supreme Court’s ruling, colleges had already been preparing for a potential rollback due to the conservative majority. Some institutions had contemplated adding more essay requirements to gain deeper insights into applicants’ backgrounds—a strategy encouraged by the recent ruling.

Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the court’s conservative majority, emphasized that universities are not prohibited from considering how an applicant’s experience with race has shaped their character or unique abilities. He criticized the notion that an individual’s identity is solely determined by their skin color, stating that the nation’s constitutional history does not endorse such a viewpoint.

Several colleges were also considering alternative approaches, such as increasing recruitment efforts in racially diverse areas or admitting more transfer students from community colleges.

The Supreme Court’s review of affirmative action stemmed from legal challenges against Harvard University and the University of North Carolina. Lower courts had previously upheld the admission systems of both schools, dismissing claims of discrimination against white and Asian American applicants. However, during the Supreme Court arguments, all six conservative justices expressed skepticism toward affirmative action. Despite this, colleges had been observing non-race-conscious admissions models, as nine states had previously banned affirmative action, beginning with California in 1996 and most recently Idaho in 2020.

Following Michigan voters’ rejection of affirmative action in 2006, the University of Michigan shifted its focus to serving low-income students. The university implemented initiatives such as sending graduates to work as counselors in low-income high schools, providing college preparatory programs in underserved areas, offering full scholarships to low-income Michigan residents, and reducing the number of early admission applications, which are predominantly submitted by white students. Despite these efforts, the university’s Black and Hispanic undergraduate populations have not fully rebounded since 2006. Hispanic enrollments have increased, but Black enrollments continue to decline, comprising only 4% of undergraduates compared to 8% in 2006.

While the University of Michigan’s efforts have not led to a significant improvement in racial diversity, some less selective colleges in Michigan have experienced more positive outcomes. Eastern Michigan University, located near Ann Arbor, witnessed an increase in students of color, reflecting demographic shifts in the state. The chilling effect observed at highly selective colleges, where students of color perceive a lack of representation, often prompts them to choose campuses that seem more inclusive.

Odia Kaba, a former resident of Ann Arbor, planned to attend the University of Michigan but opted for Eastern Michigan University due to her sister’s experiences with microaggressions as a Black student at U-M. Kaba found pockets of diversity and a sense of belonging at Eastern Michigan, despite it being a predominantly white campus. She emphasized the importance of being surrounded by individuals who could relate to her experiences.

A similar decline in racial diversity occurred in the University of California system after a statewide ban on affirmative action was implemented in 1996. Within two years, Black and Hispanic enrollments at the system’s most selective campuses, Berkeley and UCLA, dropped by 50%. Subsequently, the system invested over $500 million in programs aimed at supporting low-income and first-generation college students. Additionally, the system introduced a program guaranteeing admission to the top 9% of students from each high school in the state, striving to attract high-achieving students from diverse backgrounds. However, this approach did not significantly enhance racial diversity at Berkeley and UCLA, where students compete against a vast number of applicants.

Critics of affirmative action point to states that have banned the practice and argue that they have achieved positive outcomes without it. For instance, Oklahoma prohibited affirmative action in 2012, and the state’s flagship university experienced no severe long-term decline in minority enrollments, according to the state’s attorney general. The University of Oklahoma’s freshman class had higher numbers of Hispanic, Asian, and Native American students in recent years, while Black student enrollment remained relatively consistent compared to flagship universities in states that permit affirmative action.

Nevertheless, many colleges anticipate a potential decrease in racial diversity with the elimination of affirmative action. They fear unintentionally admitting fewer students of color, which could create a self-perpetuating cycle as reduced diversity may make campuses less attractive to future students from diverse backgrounds.

Colleges assert that racial diversity benefits the entire campus community by exposing students to different perspectives and preparing them for a diverse workforce. Institutions like Vanderbilt University, where Black students comprise a higher percentage of the student body than at many other highly selective colleges, recognize the importance of maintaining a commitment to diversity. While Vanderbilt does not plan a major shift in strategy, it intends to expand outreach efforts and build on existing initiatives to recruit students from diverse backgrounds.

The Supreme Court’s decision will likely have broader implications for admissions policies beyond race. To attract more underserved populations, experts suggest that colleges may need to reevaluate policies that favor white students, including legacy preferences, early admission programs, and standardized test scores.

Amherst College officials estimate that adopting a completely race-neutral approach would result in a 50% reduction in Black, Hispanic, and Indigenous populations. Although institutions are seeking ways to sustain diversity, they acknowledge that viable options are limited and no groundbreaking solutions have emerged thus far.

As colleges confront the end of affirmative action, they are faced with challenges that have been anticipated since previous legal battles. “These are things we’ve had to think about for quite some time,” said Doug Christiansen, dean of admissions at Vanderbilt University.

(Note: The original news content has been rewritten to improve clarity and coherence while maintaining the essence of the information provided.)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about affirmative action alternatives

Q: What alternatives are colleges exploring in response to the Supreme Court striking down affirmative action?

A: Colleges are considering various alternatives to affirmative action, such as giving preference to low-income families, admitting top students from every community in their state, adding more essay requirements, boosting recruiting efforts in racially diverse areas, admitting more transfer students from community colleges, and reevaluating admissions policies that advantage white students. However, finding a clear and effective solution has proven challenging.

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5 comments

BookLover99 June 29, 2023 - 5:44 pm

This whole affirmative action thing is controversial, ya know? Now colleges have to find new ways to make sure they’re diverse. I hope they don’t mess it up ’cause diversity is important for everyone.

Reply
LilNicky92 June 29, 2023 - 7:36 pm

lol colleges rly be strugglin’ without affirmative action! now they gotta find other ways to get diversit! smh it’s gonna b tough 4 them, hope they figure it out tho.

Reply
SportsFan34 June 29, 2023 - 9:18 pm

Whoa, so the Supreme Court said no more considering race in college admissions? That’s wild, man. Colleges gotta get creative and try different stuff to keep things diverse. It’s gonna be tough, but they’ll figure it out.

Reply
MusicLover123 June 30, 2023 - 12:04 am

I can’t believe they’re takin’ away affirmative action. Colleges gotta find new ways to have different people on their campuses. Maybe they should do more outreach or something. It’s gonna be a struggle, no doubt about it.

Reply
JenBee23 June 30, 2023 - 12:29 pm

So, colleges can’t use race anymore? that’s crazy, man. They gotta come up with some other ideas. Maybe they should focus on low-income students or somethin’. It’s gonna be a real challenge for them, no doubt.

Reply

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