Affirmative Action in College Admissions Outline


AffirmativeAction in College Admissions


  • Affirmative action has been used in colleges and universities since the late 1960s,

  • Affirmative actions in school admissions have been a controversial issue.

  • In the 1990s, some states banned the use of race in colleges and universities admissions.

  1. Role of affirmative action in colleges and universities

  • Affirmative action is a form of compensation to the socially and economically disadvantaged in the society.

  • Affirmative active introduces diversity in collages and universities.

  • Affirmative action enables learning institutions to consider subjective measures in admissions.

  1. Impacts on college applications

  • Affirmative action encourages students from minority groups to apply for admission in top universities.

  • Banning of affirmative action increases uncertainties in their likelihood of admission which affects application behaviors.

  • Highly qualified students are unlikely to apply for admission in top universities and colleges if affirmative action is banned.

  1. Impacts on completion

  • It is expected that the ban of affirmative action increase the rate of successful completion due to reduced number of less qualified students.

  • However, universities and colleges affected by ban of affirmative action indicate an reduction in the rate of completion.

  1. Alternatives to affirmative action

  • As the controversies about affirmative there are some proposed alternatives to affirmative action in universities admission.

  • Colleges and universities can use percentage admissions as an alternative to affirmative action.

  1. Conclusion

Sincethe civil right era in the 1960s, when racial segregation anddiscrimination was abolished, universities and colleges have usedaffirmative action policies to increase the number of individualsfrom minority races being admitted. The legality of affirmativeaction in learning institutions has been a controversial issue sincelate 1970s. The politics surrounding affirmative action reemerged inthe 1990s which led to its ban. In 1996 and 1998, Texas andCalifornia states made the decision to stop using race as a factor incolleges and universities admission. This had an immediate impact onthe population of students from minority races, especially in topuniversities and colleges. However, in 2003, the Supreme Courtallowed the use of race as a factor in determining college admission.However, it remains a controversial issue (Howell, 2010). It isimportant to note that affirmative action policy is also used inother sectors such as employment where minority groups, women anddisabled individuals are given preferential treatment. This paperlooks at the impacts of banning of affirmative action, especially inTexas and California, on college admission and some of thealternatives to affirmative action. Based on these impacts,affirmative action should not be banned.

Roleof affirmative action in colleges and universities

Theidea of affirmative action in the society aimed at compensating forindividuals who had a relatively lower starting point due to therace, ethnicity, gender or physical disabilities. It is assumed thatthis disadvantage limits their ability to favorably compete withother individuals with more desirable characteristics. In theeducation sector, diversity seems to be the main rationale behindaffirmative action. If nothing is done, the diversity in eliteuniversities will not be there. This is evident from the impact ofthe ban of affirmative action in universities education in somestates, which reduced admission of minority groups by up to fortypercent. However, diversity in colleges and universities is veryessential. The interaction of students from different racial,religious and national backgrounds during their university life hasan influence on the view of diversity later in their life. Studiesindicate that these interactions can significantly reduce racialbiasness and stereotypes associated with racial discrimination in thesociety. However, affirmative action goes beyond promoting diversityin colleges and universities in the United States (Dickson, 2006).

Accordingto Long (2003), there is an information gap on the role of racialpreference on university admission especially in elite colleges. Thisis because all the factors that necessitate preference in admissionare not usually considered. For example, studies have a concludedthat African Americans student are enrolled in better eliteuniversities compared to white student with similar characteristics.This was attributed to affirmative action. However, Long (2003)argued that this conclusion is based on the consideration of the highschool score. However, admission committees in elite institutionstake into account a number of factors, among them the test score andaffirmative action. A good number of factors considered in theadmissions are subjective measures which have not been included insome of the recent studies. For example, some institutions take intoconsideration the extra curriculum activities, personal traits,recommendations from former teachers or scores in the admissionessays. Colleges and universities receive tens of thousands ofapplications. The admission committees assign points to specificaspects of the student credentials. Student above a particular cutoffis admitted. Assigning points depending on the individual’s racewas the basis of banning of affirmative action in admission. Long(2003) note that other factors such as social economic advantages andunderrepresented high schools are also considered in some universityadmissions.

Impactson college applications

Thereis no doubt that the ban of affirmative action has a huge impact onthe student diversity in elite universities. The admission criteriain top universities in the universities are highly competitive. Before the affirmative action in admission was abolished in Texas andCalifornia, students from disadvantaged communities were encouragedby racial preferences to apply for admission in these institutions.Recent studies have focused on whether the ban has resulted intoperceived reduction of chances of admission in elite universities,reducing the likelihood of application for admission even in caseswhere they are qualified. However, there is a huge knowledge gapsince the application process and it influence on the universityeducation has been ignored in major studies (Dickson, 2006). According to Card &amp Krueger (2005), admission in eliteuniversities is characterized by uncertainty. Studies indicate thatwhile student from all background continue to apply for admission intop universities and colleges, they are aware of their likelihood ofnot being admitted. There are proposals that would change theapplication process and mitigate the negative impacts banning ofaffirmative action on student application. Card &amp Krueger (2005)established hat in the absence of affirmative action, students fromdisadvantages races are less likely to be admitted in elite schoolsif they are less qualified. However, evidence indicates that some ofthese universities value diversity in their admission and are likelyto use other criterion to increase minority admission. The lessqualified students from minority races will most likely not apply foradmission. This means that the pool of selection is significantlyreduced, especially among the less qualified student. This has animpact on diversity and the education outcome.

Animportant impact of ban on affirmative action is the reduced numberof highly qualified student from minority races applying foradmission in top universities and colleges. According to Card &ampKrueger (2005), highly qualified students from minority races valuethe high percentage of minority student in higher learninginstitutions. Thus, the will assign lower utility to top publicuniversities and colleges with lower diversity in the studentpopulation and higher utility to lower level colleges anduniversities. Thus, these students tend to compete for positions inthe lower ranked public institutions or private universities andcolleges where the minority races have higher representation. Liketheir less qualified counterparts, these students are diverted fromthe top universities and colleges to private and lower rankinstitutions. This has resulted into a rise in the lower rankeduniversities and colleges assessment due to the anticipated largeinflows of highly qualified students into the university. Theincreased competition in lower rank universities and colleges willfurther limit the accessibility of higher education among minoritygroups.

Studiesalso indicates that although the ban does not reduce the likelihoodof highly qualified students being admitted to elite universities andcolleges, the imperfect information about their prospect will have animpact on their application processes in the post affirmative actioneducation system. Additionally, Card &amp Krueger (2005) notes thateven in cases of student with excellent high school scores, admissionto top universities and colleges is not 100 percent and therefore notguaranteed. These uncertainties have resulted into perceived lowerchances of admissions since the ban of affirmative action amongstudent from minority races. However, some studies have indicatedthat some student feel that they deserve preferential treatment inthe admission to top universities and colleges based on their raceand social and economic disadvantage. For example, the mainconclusion of Card &amp Krueger (2005) was that the elimination ofracial preferences in college admission did not affect the decisionof highly qualified student to submit their SAT results. However, theimpacts of the changing racial diversity of student on theapplication behaviors of highly qualified student are an importanttopic for future research.

Impactson completion

Accordingto Backes (2012), majority of the studies on the impact of banningaffirmative action in colleges and universities have focuses onapplication and enrollment of students in American universities.Perhaps a more important issue is the impacts of abolishment ofaffirmative action on the completion of the course and graduationamong the minorities. Additionally, the impact on the universitycommunity is also essential. Question have been raised on whether theban of affirmative action especially in Texas and Californiadiscourage qualified students from minority society from applying forcourses in leading academic instructions in the state. There is nodoubt that the ban of affirmative action has an immediate impact onthe representation of minority races in major universities in theaffected states. However, this does not indicate that these studentsare not schooled in other institutions of higher learning in otherstates or privately owned institutions. A more important evaluationof the impact of the ban would be a comparison of the enrollment atthe first year of study and the completion after four years. Evidencesuggest that as a result of the ban on affirmative action, there is ahigher likelihood of less graduates among the minority races afterfour years, compared to the number of admission.

Accordingto Backes (2012) after the ban, there is a significant reduction inthe number of African Americans and Hispanic Americans graduating inthe four years courses in elite public universities affected by theban. It would be expected that the ban of affirmative action wouldlower the number of low quality students being admitted in eliteuniversities based on their race. Thus, it is expected that the banwill have a negative impact on enrolment but a positive impact onrate of completion. Therefore, a slight percentage decline in thenumber of minorities graduating from elite universities, compared tothe admission is an indication that the ban has a negative impact.Backes (2012) established that although not large in magnitude, theban on affirmative action in elite colleges’ admission had amarginal negative effect on the graduation rate among the AfricanAmerican students.

Alternativesto affirmative action

Sinceaffirmative action in universities and colleges admission was banned,there have been numerous proposals that have been brought forward toincrease the diversity of student in institution of higher learning.Although there are no legal requirements for institutions to maintaina relatively diverse students population, universities and collegesfind it necessary to maintain racial and ethnic diversity instudents. According to Long (2003), colleges and universities canuse percentage admissions as an alternative to affirmative action.The percentage population policies have been applied in some statessuch as Texas which ensure that top ten percent of the students inthe state are admitted to the college or university of choice withinthe state. Other states such as California have a percentage policywhere the top four percent students are admitted at the University ofCalifornia. The percentage admission is based on the assumption thatthe percentage absorbed contains a relatively diverse studentpopulation distributed naturally across the races in the state. Toserve the same purpose as affirmative action, some of these policieshave targeted racially segregated schools where the top percentagesare minority concentrated.

Long(2003) also notes that in cases where the percentage policies dosesnot work, colleges and universities can discount and elevateadmission factors that are affected by race. There are alsounofficial proxies that can be used to increase diversities. Foeexample, affiliation to a particular activity of organization may beassociated with a minority race. Thus, an institution may give extraweight to a particular activity in the admission process. A reductionin the overreliance on exam result has also been proposed as aneffective alternative to affirmative action. For example, someinstitutions have dropped use of SAT and ACT as the basic criteria ofadmission in colleges and universities. For example, a state ornational performance test based on the No Child Left Behind law isappropriate. According to Chan &amp Eyster (2002), the decision toban affirmative action college and universities admission does notprevent learning institutions to develop admission methodologies thatwill act as an alternative to affirmative action. Thus, other thanthe explicit consideration of race, which is considered to be unfairto some races, there are admission models that can increase racialand ethnic diversity. A group based application criteria can be usedto unsecure that the available positions are filled competitively,while taking care of quality and diversity.


Inconclusion, despite the fact that affirmative action in collegeadmission, it continues to be one of the most debated issues in themodern education system. Affirmative action is not applicable in theeducation sector only. It was introduced as a means of compensatingfor the social and economic disadvantage experienced by theminorities which limit their accessibility to higher education. Thereis no doubt that affirmative action plays an important role in theeducation systems. It has been argued that the social skills acquiredby students in colleges and universities have an influence on theirlives. Thus, a university with a higher diverse class produces moreholistic student who is able to freely interact with people fromdifferent backgrounds. The banning of affirmative action has a hugeimpacts college admissions and completion. Studies indicates that thebanning of affirmative action has reduced the number of minorityraces being admitted in top universities and colleges this hasreduced the number of both qualified and unqualified studentsapplying for admission in these universities. Additionally,affirmative action has negatively affected completion, despite thefact that more qualified students are admitted to top universitiesand colleges. Despite this, there are alternatives to affirmativeactions which are not race based but takes into account diversity anddisadvantages societies in colleges and universities admission.Nonetheless, affirmative action in college admission should not bebanned.


Backers,B. (2012). “Do affirmative action bans lower minority collegeenrollment and attainment?” TheJournal of Human Resources47(2), p 435-457.

Card,D. &amp Krueger, (2005). “Would the elimination of affirmativeaction affect highly qualified minority applicant? Evidence fromCalifornia and Texas”. Industrialand Labor Relations Review,58(3) p 416-446.

Chan,J. &amp Eyster, E. (2002). DoesBanning Affirmative Action Lower College Student Quality?

Dickson,L. M. (2006), “Does Ending Affirmative Action in College AdmissionsLower the Percent of Minority Students Applying to College?”Economicsof Education Review25:1, 109-119.

Howell,J. S. (2010), “Assessing the Impact of Eliminating AffirmativeAction in Higher Education,” Journal ofLabor Economics,28:1, 113-166.

Long,B. T. (2003). “Diversity by any other name: are there viablealternatives to affirmative action in higher education” TheWestern Journal of Black Studies,27(1), p 30-36.