(Not So) Affirmative Action?
The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education has published its annual roster of statistics for Black student acceptance rates at the nation’s highest ranked colleges and universities. For many critics of affirmative action, these numbers will prove controversial, since in most cases the Black student admit rate is higher than the all college admit rate. Many will interpret this as a clear indication that it is easier for Black students to get into college than it is for the average white student.
In the case of Cornell University, for example, the all-college admit rate is 20.7%. For every hundred applicants to this institution, just over 79 were denied admission. When it comes to Black applicants to Cornell, the prospects were more favorable, but only slightly. With a Black student admit rate of 21.2%, just under 79 out of every 100 Black applicants were denied admission.
The difference between the all-college admit rate and the Black student admit rate is more dramatic in the case of the University of Chicago. In 2008, the overall freshman acceptance rate was 27.9%, but the Black student acceptance rate was 48.7%.
While it is highly possible that some of these numbers are attributable to self-selection (with many weaker and mid-range Black candidates eliminating themselves before the formal application process begins ), the simple fact is like the children of alumni, the scion of wealthy donors, and talented college athletes, Black students are often the beneficiaries of special consideration during the admission process. Affirmative action is alive and well at most highly-ranked colleges and universities and, despite recent efforts to end the practice, the practice shows little signs of abating.
So, if a higher admission rate for Black students is indicative of race-based affirmative action, then how are we to understand those colleges and universities at which Black students are admitted at a lower-than-average rate? Are these institutions also taking race into account, but in a way that hurts rather than benefits students of African descent? Is the lower Black admit rate a factor of the lower average income of Black students’ families? It is certainly conceivable that acollege that does not practice need-blind admissions would admit significant less students from working-class and poor families.
Or are these institutions favoring a particular profile that is more common in non-Black populations? Are they interested in students who combine academics with a type of extra-curricular well-roundedness that is more difficult to achieve for students from impoverished communities and/or under-funded school systems? After all, no matter how good your grades and test scores are, if your school doesn’t offer sports, music programs, or a drama club, then your non-academic options are likely to be very limited.
Whatever the reason, these institutions somehow find Black students more difficult to admit than their non-Black peers. I include this brief list of those selective colleges and universities who admit Black students at a lower rate than other students not only to draw attention and scrutiny to admission practices at these institutions, but also as a point of information for Black prospective students and their families. Such families may wish to consider visiting these campuses and inquiring about the process of admission and the degree to which race may hurt or hinder a student’s prospects for admission. And, for students who are planning to apply to one or more of these institutions, be sure to include at least one or two “safety schools” because, if you are planning to apply to any of the following institutions, the odds are against you.
High Ranking Colleges and Universities with Lower Admit Rates for Black Students (from JBHE)
Emory University — Overall Admit Rate: 26.6% — Black Student Admit Rate: 17.3%
Wake Forest University – Overall Admit Rate: 38.4% — Black Student Admit Rate: 25.8%
University of Southern California – Overall Admit Rate: 21.9% — Black Student Admit Rate: 16.6%
Washington University – Overall Admit Rate: 21.7% — Black Student Admit Rate: 16.9%
UCLA — Overall Admit Rate: 22.9% — Black Student Admit Rate: 16.1%
University of California-Berkeley – Overall Admit Rate: 22.3% — Black Student Admit Rate: 14.8%
Davidson College – Overall Admit Rate: 25.7% — Black Student Admit Rate: 25.5%
Bryn Mawr College – Overall Admit Rate: 48.8% — Black Student Admit Rate: 32.1%
Smith College – Overall Admit Rate: 47.7% — Black Student Admit Rate: 36.4%
Lafayette College – Overall Admit Rate: 37.2% — Black Student Admit Rate: 30.7%
Barnard College – Overall Admit Rate: 28.5% — Black Student Admit Rate: 25.1%
Macalester College – Overall Admit Rate: 41.1% — Black Student Admit Rate: 32.5%
Washington and Lee University – Overall Admit Rate: 16.5% — Black Student Admit Rate: 16.4%
Bucknell University – Overall Admit Rate: 29.8% — Black Student Admit Rate: 19.5%
Harvey Mudd College – Overall Admit Rate: 31.1% — Black Student Admit Rate: 29.0%
Posted by Ajuan Mance