Austin Jia. 2340 out of 2400 on the SAT, a 4.42 GPA, 11 AP classes, captain of the tennis team, part of the New Jersey state orchestra, the debate team and an advocate for an Asian-American student group. When he was rejected from the schools he applied to, Jia could not help but be skeptical about the policies that allowed his classmates with far less on their applications get into those same schools.
Affirmative action, or race-conscious admissions, is defined by Merriam-Webster as “an active effort to improve the employment or educational opportunities of members of minority groups.” However, being part of a minority group should not warrant special privileges.
President John F. Kennedy proposed affirmative action in the 1960s. It has since been adapted to fit into many aspects of American education and business. After 50 years, it is time for widescale change.
Recent news has suggested that this change will not come easily as lawsuits and investigations come to light. Harvard is being sued by Students for Fair Admissions and is under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department for using affirmative action to discriminate against Asian Americans.
“Your ethnicity should not be something to be used to harm you in life nor help you in life,” said Edward Blum, president of Students for Fair Admissions.
Many states have recognized this need for change, with eight states making it illegal to consider race in admissions. These states have implemented different policies and strategies in their public colleges to promote diversity without affirmative action.
Schools such as the University of Washington have begun taking socioeconomic factors into account according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. Some of these factors include family income, overall wealth, single-parent status, neighborhood demographics, parents’ education level and high school performance.
When Jia applied to colleges that do not take these considerations into account, he had objectively better scores than his classmate, yet the colleges accepted his classmate rather than Jia. This is despite both of them being about the same in terms of income, the only difference being their ethnicities. These situations are easily avoidable when considering socioeconomic factors rather than race.
California, Texas and Florida use percent plans which guarantee admission to state colleges to the top graduates from each high school in the state. This not only creates geographic diversity, but also gives underfunded high school graduates opportunities to attend a wider selection of colleges.
Minority percentages in these colleges have increased after eliminating affirmative action. Out of eleven colleges studied by The Century Foundation, nine had exceeded levels of minorities in the year before the ban.
Instead of looking at race, universities should look at more pertinent socioeconomic factors to avoid unfair admissions. There are already techniques for creating diversity while maintaining a fair, merit-based admissions process. Eight states out of fifty have realized this. Will the rest of America follow suit?