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Pew: Support for College Affirmative Action is Slipping

A new survey from Pew Research casts doubt on the public’s support for entangling race and college admissions.

According to new data, “most Americans (73%) say colleges and universities should not consider race or ethnicity when making decisions about student admissions. Just 7% say race should be a major factor in college admissions, while 19% say it should be a minor factor.”

Pew’s survey asked 7,000 people about their opinions on college admissions.  Respondents answered questions regarding eight factors in college admissions.  They were asked to assign a level of importance to each factor.  They had three options: major factor, minor factor, or not a factor.

Here are the results:

Credit: Nikki Graf

Pew breaks down how individuals responded by race, by education level, and by party identification.  What is particularly interesting is that even democrats are eschewing race based college admissions.

On a completely different note, I find it fascinating how many respondents have no interest in protecting college athletics.  57% say that athletic ability should not be a factor and 34% say it should only be a minor factor.  The entire concept of going to college to play a sport is funny to me.  Unless you’re doing it with the goal of going professional, what’s the point exactly except for getting a full-ride?  Colleges are more willing to give out scholarships for athletic performance than they are for academics!

I digress.  One implication of this poll is that the liberal arts education, and the exhortation for everyone to go to college, may finally be dead.

Colleges focus on criteria that do not determine success in college. A lazy student who gets a 36 on his ACT may technically be prepared for college, but that college will waste a scholarship on an individual who has neither the drive nor the commitment to continue their education. 

A diligent individual may persevere through high school and get good grades and then bomb the SAT.  A college in this scenario may encourage this student to take the long track of college completion i.e. take an extra year to complete all necessary course work.

In either case, colleges readily accept students who might not be well-suited for college because that college gets to charge room and board along with tuition that the student can’t afford.  Colleges eschewed competition because increased enrollment means more subsidized tuition.  The college gets paid and then students are saddled with debt until their mid 50s.

It is inherently good that we move away from the idea that certain qualities (which have no bearing on college performance) should be used in college admissions.  We can admit that the inclusion of “whether a relative went to the school” is a product of institutional self-preservation, corruption, nepotism, and the need to grease the wheels with donors.  There is absolutely nothing of value (aside from social perception) in admitting individuals because they are the first to attend college in their family.  I can’t imagine that universities actually verify that information anyway.

I will make one concession though.  If we are to look at race in college admissions, it has to be for the benefit of the descendants of African American slaves.  They have a specific history in the US and it is unconscionable to cheapen that history by applying it to every ethnic group on the planet.

The Americans that were polled may see a decreasing value in that cheapened version of affirmative action. They may see college as an idiotic experience in need of serious reforms focused around academic performance, not partying, sports, and mediocre achievement.


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