New University of Michigan Undergrad Admissions Policy Modeled After Law School’s ANN ARBOR, Mich.Race remains a factor in the University of Michigan’s new admissions policy that asks more detailed questions of applicants but doesn’t use a point system in an effort to comply with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling. “We continue to believe in gathering a group of students that are very bright but different from one another,” Michigan Provost Paul N. Courant said late last month when the new undergraduate policy was unveiled. “Students from all walks of life and backgrounds.”Applicants will be given the option to identify their race, but the answer will be considered “holistically” with the rest of the application, Courant said. “How much it matters in any individual file will be determined by that file,” he said. In June, the high court struck down the university’s race-conscious point system for undergraduate admissions in a 6-3 decision. The same day, the court issued a 5-4 ruling on the university’s law school admissions policy, saying race can be one factor that colleges use to pick their students, as long as it is not the only factor (see Black Issues, July 17).The new undergraduate policy is modeled on the law school policy, which seeks a “critical mass” of minorities, while also borrowing from policies of other universities and College Board recommendations. Academic achievement — including grades, test scores and high-school curriculum — are given the highest priority, which Courant said is consistent with the previous policy. With different questions, new short-answer questions and an optional essay, the university says the application allows students to tell more about themselves and their socioeconomic background, as well as priorities, intellectual interests and expected contributions to campus. A reader, typically a part-time former educator, will review the application and make an initial recommendation about whether to admit, defer or reject the applicant. Separately, a professional admissions counselor will review the application. The two recommendations will be given to a manager in the admissions office, who will make a final decision. A committee will review any disagreements between the recommendations. The university plans to hire 16 part-time readers and five new professional admissions counselors, for a total of 22 full-time counselors, Courant said. The new admissions process and application became effective last month and will apply predominantly to incoming freshman in the 2004 fall semester.Tania Brown, vice president of student government for the school’s College of Literature, Science and the Arts and an affirmative action supporter, said she’s generally pleased with the policy, but its full impact won’t be known until the 2004 freshman class gets to campus. “We’ll be watching and waiting,” Brown says.The Center for Individual Rights, which handled the lawsuits brought against the university by White applicants rejected from the undergraduate and law schools, said it would watch closely to see how the new policy is implemented. “If race continues to trump most other admissions factors, the new system will be just as illegal as the system the court struck down,” says Terry Pell, president of the nonprofit center. — Associated Press
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