Opinion: Clarion Call

Call. 62: Racial Preferences, Grade Inflation Hurt Education, Students Say

Racial Preferences, Grade Inflation Hurt Education, Students Say

While most students favor ethnic diversity on campus, they oppose compromising fairness and high standards to achieve it, according to new survey by Zogby International. The study, commissioned by the New York-based Foundation for Academic Standards and Tradition (FAST), interviewed 1,004 randomly selected college students nationwide.

Four out of five students oppose the use of racial preferences in college admissions decisions, according to the survey. And while 84.3 percent of students say ethnic diversity on campus is important, 86.4 percent say meeting academic standards is more important in admissions decisions. More than 92 percent say colleges should strive toward fair enrollment rather than use racial preferences and oppose giving preferences to blacks and Hispanics. More than 95 percent say diversity of ideas and high academic standards are more important than achieving ethnic diversity.

More than 86 percent of students say fairness in meeting academic standards is more important in admissions decisions than achieving ethnic diversity. More than 77 percent say schools should not give minority students preference in the admissions process. Also, students tend to oppose racial preferences regardless of their race: Whites 79.5 percent, Hispanics 71.4 percent, Asians 78.1 percent, African-Americans 51.9 percent, and Others 78.1 percent.

“This survey asked questions that institutions of higher learning have been avoiding. That’s why we asked them,” said Marc Berley, Ph.D., president of FAST. “We believe this survey will help colleges and universities focus on areas where they need to improve.”

Other findings: More than 78 percent of students say colleges need to focus more on traditional subjects that help students acquire valuable skills. More than 66 percent say grade inflation is bad for all students. More than 68 percent of college students want professors to challenge them more. Four out of 10 say their college suffers from “dumbing down” in the classroom.

The text of the survey, including questions, results, and sample demographics, is available at www.goFAST.org or by calling Jeff Rosenberg at 301-972-2367.

GPAs of Minority Students on the Rise

Besides bringing more minorities to the University of California system, the absence of race preferences has had other positive affects on some campuses. At UC-San Diego, for example, the GPAs of minority students are rising as more minorities attend schools for which they are academically well-suited, according to Gail Heriot, University of San Diego law professor and co-chair of the Yes on Proposition 209 campaign.

“Racial-preference advocates use the term ‘cascading’ [the process by which minorities are redistributed to less competitive schools] derisively, arguing that cascading is a disaster for minority students,” writes Heriot in the April 17, 2000 edition of The Weekly Standard. “The truth is quite the opposite; few changes in educational policy have been better news…At UCSD, for example, in the year before Prop 209’s implementation, only one black student had a freshman-year GPA of 3.5 or better – a single black honor student in a freshman class of 3,268. In contrast, 20 percent of the white students on campus had such a GPA.”

Proposition 209 changed that, Heriot goes on to say. “No longer are black honor students a rarity. Instead, a full 20 percent of the black freshmen could boast a GPA of 3.5 or better after their first year. That’s higher than the rate for Asians (16 percent) and extremely close to the rate for whites in the same year (22 percent).” USCD’s academic performance report finds that there are now no “substantial GPA differences based on race/ethnicity,” Heriot adds.