Affirmative Action in the College Admissions Process

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Mikaeel Zohair, Staff Writer

Put simply, affirmative action is a policy favoring individuals from minority groups or groups that have been previously discriminated against. Affirmative action aims to promote diversity in the workforce and in education systems by providing minorities with more opportunities for success.

As of right now, 10 states in the United States have banned affirmative action in the college admissions process. Only a fraction of the 5,300 colleges and universities in the US use race-based affirmative action as a determinant in their college admissions processes. 

Affirmative action relates an individual’s race to their socioeconomic status, which explains why those who benefit from affirmative action stem largely from minority groups. For example, Black households received an average income of $40,258 in 2017 versus $68,145 for white households. Affirmative action in the college admissions process can boost the applications of minority groups such as Blacks and Latinos by raising SAT scores or providing financial aid grants.

I can go on and on about the long-term benefits of affirmative action — but as much as I want to support it right now, I can’t.

For starters, race-based affirmative action degrades the merit-based selection processes we have today. Instead, it introduces a factor to the college admissions process which is beyond the applicant’s control. We are born into our race. There is no morally justifiable way to change your race without breaking some sort of ethical barrier. People may argue that legacy status — something else you can’t change — also plays a role in the college admissions process and we accept, but that doesn’t mean it should be allowed either. We cannot evaluate people based on virtue of birth because as humans, we just don’t have control over some things.

You could also say that race-based affirmative action takes into account minority groups with relatively low average household incomes. However, a study at Princeton found that affirmative action grants Blacks and Latinos a boost of over 200 SAT points compared to whites, while Asian-Americans lose over 50 SAT points. This can put down Asian-Americans and whites while creating a stigma by implying that they don’t need the money or that all Asians are smart. If we’re truly trying to level the college admission fields, then we can’t base college admissions off of race, but we can make socioeconomic status a determinant to further level the playing field.

I am all for the diversity and socioeconomic benefits that come with affirmative action. But I can’t see past the obvious fact that we’re born into our race and, in reality, don’t have control over it. Affirmative action degrades meritocracy and can, in a way, degrade other races through disproportional and partially-discriminatory policies. We cannot fight racism with more racism. That is not the direction our country should be heading in. Still, although I don’t fully support it right now, I’m open to learning more about the benefits of affirmative action.