Opinion: Clarion Call

Call. 61: Critics of Race Preferences Vindicated by Enrollment Figures

The Princeton-based National Association of Scholars (NAS) and the Berkeley-based California Association of Scholars (CAS) last week expressed great satisfaction over enrollment figures released by the University of California. Minority enrollment at the University of California is up despite the banning of race preferential admissions policies there three years ago.

“These new figures confirm that Proposition 209 has not and will not lead to the ‘resegregation’ of higher education in California, as critics have claimed,” said Thomas Wood, executive director of CAS. Wood is coauthor and one of the founders of Proposition 209. “Clearly, 209 is not an exclusionary measure, either on its face and application, or in its effect,” he said.

“We are pleased to see that the numbers are rebounding in the absence of preferences,” added NAS President Steve Balch.

More minorities will enroll as freshmen this fall at UC than did when race-based admissions policies were in effect. Overall, in the eight University of California system schools, enrollment of black, Hispanic and American Indian freshmen will rise to 7,336 next fall , up from 7,236 in 1997.

Since banning race preferences, the university has focused on outreach programs to address disparities at underperforming high schools. Policies have also been established guaranteeing admission to the top four percent of graduates in each high school.

Some leaders, however, are concerned that the ban on race preferences will lead to a two-tiered university system, with minorities being at an academic disadvantage by their having to attend less competitive schools. “What you have is your two flagship campuses will be sort of reverse ghettos, with Asians and whites and a lack of color,” University of California regent Bill Bagley told The New York Times. “That’s not good for those institutions.”

Schools Don’t Determine Success, Reports Find

Students with good minds are more likely to succeed than their less mentally endowed peers, regardless of the college or university they attend, according to several new reports by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Among the reports findings:

*Children who do poorly in bad schools tend also to do poorly in schools with abundant resources.

*School dropouts with significant cognitive skills also earn large returns in their careers compared to those of lesser intelligence, whether they be male, female, black or white.

*Even modest differences in student’s SAT scores are associated with significantly higher lifetime incomes, regardless of whether the person attends an elite Ivy League school or a less prestigious institution.

The reports can be accessed by contacting the Bureau at nber.org. The findings are contained in working papers 7101, 7322 and 7450.