College Diversity vs. Affirmative Action? California leads the debate

This article via the New York Times should be closely read by anyone who cares about issues of diversity and education. In 1996, California was one of the first states to abolish affirmative action in public universities. Instead the universities decided to widen out their reach to a bigger (more diverse) pool of students and embed themselves more within the local communities. Seven years later – after an initial drop of students from minority backgrounds – this initiative has proven successful. Here are a few stand out points from that article:

Those states have tried a series of new approaches to choosing students, giving applicants a leg up for overcoming disadvantages like poverty, language barriers, low-performing schools and troubled neighborhoods. That process has drawn heavy scrutiny, but in California, it is only half of a two-pronged approach. Disadvantaged students in poor neighborhoods, like Erick Ramirez, a senior at Anaheim High School, are benefiting from the state university systems’ growing efforts to cultivate applicants starting in middle school.

“If you’re serious about doing admissions based on disadvantage, it requires a lot of outreach,” Mr. Kahlenberg said. “It’s the right thing to do, but it isn’t easy, and it isn’t cheap.”The University of California, Irvine, alone spends more than $7 million a year on that outreach, with a few hundred people working on it — mostly part time, and not always for pay — and reaching into dozens of poor neighborhoods in its region”

The universities are doing work that in more affluent communities is handled by parents and guidance counselors.(…) My high school counselor never said I should go to a four-year college,” Ms. Flores, 24, said. “When I expressed interest, they were surprised, and it was already too late because I didn’t have the right classes, so I started at community college. That’s what we want to avoid with these kids.”

 

 

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