New UC Admissions Policy Would Hurt African Americans, Asians


The new freshman admission policy will take UC admissions in the wrong direction, and it will seriously affect minority applicants.

Earlier this year on the recommendation of President Mark Yudof and the Academic Senate, the University of California Board of Regents adopted a new freshman admission policy. It greatly expands the eligible applicant pool but also reduces the historic guarantee of admission from the top 12.5 percent to 10 percent of the California high school graduating class. The new policy retains the eligibility requirement for applicants to complete 15 college prep courses, maintain a GPA of 3.0 or better in these courses, and take the SAT Reasoning Test (previously known as the SAT I), but eliminates the requirement for applicants to take the SAT Subject Tests that assess the mastery of specific academic subjects.

Analysis by Yudof’s office indicated that if the new policy had been applied to the fall 2007 entering freshman class, the percentage of Asian-American admittees would have dropped significantly, and that of African Americans and Latinos would not have changed. In contrast, the percentage of white admittees would have increased. Faculty members had initially intended the new policy to increase student diversity at UC.

Unfortunately, when UC drops guaranteed admission for those ranked between the 10 percentile and 12.5 percentile, African Americans, Latinos and low-income Asian Americans who are clustered in this band lose out on admission.

As the former California Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction and a parent of three UC graduates, I was shocked by UC’s own analysis. I was not included in the discussion during the developmental phase of the policy, but I joined other Asian Americans in appealing to the Regents to delay their vote on the new policy so that its impact on racial minority applicants could be better understood. Long supportive of a diverse UC, we suspected that the analysis by UC did not fully explore the effect of using scores from only the SAT Reasoning test on racial minority admissions. The Regents denied our appeal for a delay and voted for the new policy to take effect for the fall 2012 entering freshman class.

Yudof argued that the new policy is about “fairness.” He said that under the current policy many students who meet the high school coursework and GPA requirements and take the SAT Reasoning test, but fail to take the SAT Subject Tests, have been barred from having their application reviewed and considered for UC admission. Including these students, Yudof said, would create a more diverse pool of applicants entitled to have their application reviewed.

The new policy may expand and diversify the pool of applicants, but unlike the current policy, it does not guarantee admission to all applicants who meet UC eligibility requirements. UC will review more applications but will also reject many more applicants, including eligible racial minority students.

Retired UC Berkeley Professor Ling Chi Wang, Chinese for Affirmative Action Executive Director Vincent Pan and I met with UC officials this past summer and requested a simulation study of the impact of the new policy for each of the nine UC undergraduate campuses. UC officials agreed to do this simulation study, based on California Postsecondary Education Commission data, that would look at two scenarios at each campus: a small applicant pool increase and a large one.

In November, UC officials released to us the results of its latest simulation study which showed dramatic and disturbing results: Had the new policy been in effect for the spring 2007 California public high school graduating class, the percentage of African-American and Asian-American admissions would have dropped at eight UC campuses under both scenarios, and declined under one of two scenarios at the ninth UC campus. The percentage of Latino admissions would have decreased at four campuses under both scenarios and dropped at three other campuses under one of two scenarios. The percentage of white admissions would have increased significantly at eight UC campuses under both scenarios.

In the stimulation study, African Americans, Latinos and Asians lose substantially in admissions on the Riverside campus, currently home to the largest group of African-American and Latino students, compared to all other campuses.

The results of this latest study uncovered how severe the impact would be on African-American admissions, much more than what was known at the time the policy was adopted. System-wide, the number of African-American admittees would have dropped 27 percent; Asian Americans, nearly 12 percent; and Latinos, nearly three percent. This is not a direction that UC admissions should be headed, especially when the number and percentage of UC-eligible African-American and Latino students has increased, due to their hard work in high school, during the past 10 years.

In the face of these latest findings, President Yudof and Academic Senate leaders continue to insist that UC “cannot know who will apply under the new policy, and among those who apply, who will be admitted.” They refuse to accept study findings coming out of the presidents’ own office, based on well-established, predictable UC freshman student applicant behavior for all high schools across the state. The new policy is neither fair nor wise.

The impact of the new policy, coupled with higher tuition and stiffer competition stemming from freshmen student enrollment cutbacks, will cause UC-eligible racial minority and low-income high school graduates to experience much greater difficulty in achieving UC admission.

The Regents need to rescind the new freshman admission policy and direct the president and his staff to work with community members and high schools to improve the admission and enrollment of underrepresented racial minority students to UC. It has to be held accountable for implementing its commitment to diversity and equity.

Henry Der is a veteran civil rights activist.

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