Affirmative Action Bans Hurt Male Student Enrollment

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by Michelle J.Nealy

According to a new study, released by the University of California, Los Angeles, (UCLA), college admission rates of Asian American students at select public universities have thrived in the absence of affirmative action, whereas the admission rates of Black, Hispanic and White students have declined.

In a review of enrollment statistics from three states where affirmative action bans are in effect — California, Florida and Texas — the report also revealed that across all races, the male population drops in schools with blind admissions processes. Researchers examined admissions at five select institutions — the University of California, Berkeley; UCLA, the University of California, San Diego; the University of Florida; and the University of Texas at Austin.

The results of affirmative action bans such as Proposition 209 in California, which prohibits university admission offices from considering race, sex or ethnicity in its decisions, varied from state to state. However, general trends emerged to confirm that Asian American students are disadvantaged in a race-conscious admission system, according to the study which was published in InterActions: UCLA Journal of Education and Information Studies.

At UC, Berkeley, Asian American enrollment jumped from 37 percent in 1995 to 43 percent in 2000. In Texas, the number of Asian American college students rose from 14 percent in 1995 to 17 percent in 2000. While modest, Florida also experienced gains. The Asian American student population in the University of Florida system grew from 7.5 percent to 7.8 percent.

California was hit hardest in its loss of Black and Hispanic students and did the least legislatively to retain diversity. Texas and Florida were able to suppress such steep population shifts by implementing programs to ensure public university admission to high-achieving high school students.

Texas, which lost a court challenge to its affirmative action policy in 1996, adopted a law in 1997 that guaranteed acceptance at all state-funded universities to students who graduate in the top 10 percent of their class.

Similarly, Florida instituted the Talented 20 Program that offers automatic admission to the top 20 percent of public high school graduates, regardless of standardized test scores. Students, however, were not necessarily admitted to the school of their choice.

The number of Black students admitted to UC, Berkeley, dropped from 562 in the fall of 1997 to 191 in the fall of 1998. Hispanic admission numbers plunged as well, from 1,266 to 600. Since 1997, the percentage of Black and Hispanic students admitted to the university has dropped 6.5 percent, while the percentage of Asian Americans admitted jumped 6.2 percent.

The enrollment of Black men suffered the most under California’s ban. At UC, San Diego, for instance, the freshman class of 2005 had just 19 Black men, up from 12 in 2000.


To address the lack of diversity in UC schools, UC system officials in 2002 designed an admission policy known as comprehensive review in order “to improve the quality and fairness” of the UC admission process by mandating that campuses consider a full range of students’ accomplishments, experiences and circumstances, while prohibiting the consideration of race.


But according to a report released by researchers at UCLA’s Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies, titled “Gaming the System,” UC campuses still rely too heavily on traditional indicators of merit, such as a student’s grade point average and SAT score in the admissions process, diminishing the postsecondary opportunities for large numbers of underrepresented minorities.

Researchers in this new study, noting the negative effect affirmative action bans have had on Whites, wrote “This action not only reduced the diversity of their [Whites] educational experience, but it also affected its quality by limiting the expression of different viewpoints in and out of the classroom. As one of the authors of this essay remarked on many occasions, ‘affirmative action is not just for ‘them,’ it is for all of us.’”

–Michelle J.Nealy

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