Diversity at Risk
A statement by APIEL NOW! (Asian Pacific Islander Education and Languages NOW!)
February 20, 2010
Making students jump through admissions hoops is essential to a world-class university's prestige. However, for students of color and students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, that hoop is about to shrink in size. Proposed by UC President Mark Yudof and approved by the UC Regents, the new UC admissions policy, set to go into effect in 2012, is a deceptive piece of work that actually reduces the percentage of high school students guaranteed admission to at least one UC campus while masking its true nature by expanding the pool of applicants eligible to apply. Although these reductions in guaranteed admissions will affect all applicants, this policy will disproportionately impact students of color.
There are three main features of the new admissions policy: it reduces the percentage of students guaranteed admission to a UC from the top 12.5% of statewide high school graduates to the top 10%; it eliminates the SAT II Subject Test as a UC requirement; and it increases the percentage of seniors who are guaranteed admission within each high school ("Eligibility in Local Context") from the top 4% of a high school graduating class to the top 9%. Overall, this policy will expand the pool of applicants eligible to apply to UC by as many as 30,000 students, which, according to Yudof and UC Academic Senate Chair Mary Croughan, will “increase opportunity” and allow well-qualified students who have not taken the subject tests to have their application considered for comprehensive review.
While there are several positive aspects of the new policy – particularly in decisions to expand both the Eligibility in Local Context and the pool of applications that UC will review – there are critical problems with the policy's implementation that severely compromise its overall effectiveness and intended goals.
First, this policy relies on a murky category of students who are “entitled to review, but not guaranteed admission,” thus deflecting attention from the administration's reduced commitment to hard admissions guarantees. By eliminating the SAT II Subject Test which admittedly has been a barrier for students in lower socioeconomic classes and many minorities as a UC requirement, the policy does allow more students to apply to UC than under the current policy; yet having one’s application reviewed does not guarantee admission, particularly at a time when campuses like UC Berkeley are cutting back in-state enrollment in order to save money. According to UC Office of the President's (UCOP) own data, approximately 18,000 fewer CA high school graduates would have been eligible for guaranteed UC admission had this policy been in effect in 2007.
Second, the elimination of the SAT II as a UC requirement means that the criteria for deciding the top 10% of high school graduates statewide will be more heavily based on scores from the SAT I, a test that privileges groups with access to test-prep. resources.
Yet, in the policy's defense, the administration argues that the percentage of students eligible for admission in their local context will increase and thereby level the playing field for students from poorer schools. As UCOP studies show, such a boon, however, is nullified by the overall reduction in guaranteed admissions. Although the pool of students eligible to apply might be larger and more diverse, the actual group of students eligible for guaranteed admissions will be increasingly homogeneous. According to a California Postsecondary Education Commission eligibility study, 50% fewer African Americans, 42% fewer Chicano/Latinos, 41% fewer Filipinos, 39% fewer Pacific Islanders, and 36% fewer Asian Americans would have been eligible for guaranteed admission had the policy been effective in 2007.
In short, this policy does not validate the UC Regents' claim that it will increase diversity on UC campuses. Of the three UCOP simulation studies, two demonstrated that this policy would be damaging to diversity in student admissions, and one showed negligible impact. If the best case scenario results in a neutral outcome and the worst indicates a drastic decrease in diversity, then we must question the university administration's folly in implementing this policy.
The 2012 admissions policy, as with recent decisions to reduce the size of the incoming freshman class while increasing out-of-state and international enrollment from 12 to 23 percent, creates the most devastating climate for diversity in the UC system since the passage of Proposition 209. The promise of “entitled to review, but not guaranteed admission” is ultimately a hollow one. What is necessary now more than ever is a policy that can deliver tangible results--not a policy that, under the cloak of increasing diversity, permits the university to accept fewer qualified in-state students.
The university administration has argued that Californians must communicate their concerns for public education to Sacramento. Yet we submit that the university itself must act, in principled and forthright ways, to preserve a public vision for the UC system. For starters, the administration must rescind its disastrous 2012 admissions policy.