Most U.S. adults against banning race-based admissions, poll

Contrary to the rise in political polarization in higher education, NORC found minimal differences across party lines.

The U.S. Supreme Court is set to rule on two cases involving Harvard and the University of North Carolina in June which will decide the fate of affirmative action in higher education. In light of the ruling, one poll discovered that most of the country doesn’t think race-based admissions should be banned.

The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research concluded from its May polling that 63% of U.S. adults believe the U.S. Supreme Court should not block colleges from considering race or ethnicity in its admissions process. Contrary to the rise in political polarization in higher education, NORC found minimal differences across party lines.

However, most U.S. adults don’t believe race or ethnicity should significantly affect college admissions. Specifically, only 31% of adults thought it should be extremely, very or somewhat important to the college admissions process. The rest concluded it was “not too important” or “not important at all.” In fact, adults weighed athletic ability as a more important factor (38%).

On the other hand, high school grades (92%), standardized test scores (83%) and ability to afford tuition (71%) gained the most preference among those polled.

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While most U.S. adults, regardless of political preference, are against banning race-based admissions practices, Students for Fair Admissions, which sued the University of North Carolina in 2014, is primarily a conservative-based group. Similarly, Florida and Texas legislators responsible for banning diversity, equity and inclusion efforts among their public colleges mainly were Republican. While the Supreme Court last examined affirmative action in 2016 and upheld the practice at the University of Texas, former President Donald Trump has since appointed two Supreme Court justices with a conservative-leaning.

Some experts argue that restricting colleges from a race-conscious admissions process will deprive minority students of a sense of belonging. Ultimately, it will affect student success rates and academic equity.

“Not having students with similar experiences may make people of color feel like they don’t belong, which may decrease degree completion and increase transfers,” said Dr. Nika White, author of “Inclusion Uncomplicated: A Transformative Guide to Simplify DEI” and president of Nika White Consulting.

Consider these race-neutral alternatives

If the Supreme Court ruling favors eliminating affirmative action, schools can consider similar admissions practices that may ensure enrollment equity.

  • Give preference to students with a lower socioeconomic status: In the U.S., a strong correlation exists between individuals’ race and ethnicity and socioeconomic status, according to a Harvard-affiliated public policy resource. “If you’re Black, you’re more likely to be in an under-resourced school,” said Justice Sonia Sotomayor, according to University Business. “You’re more likely to be taught by teachers who are not as qualified as others. You’re more likely to be viewed as having less academic potential.”
  • Consider ending legacy-based admissions: Harvard, Johns Hopkins and most recently the University of Pennsylvania have pledged to eliminate considering a student’s potential legacy standing as a factor for admissions. Harvard’s Supreme Court ruling recently unveiled that despite Harvard’s 4% admissions rate, 30% of its accepted cohort comprises legacy students.
Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel is a UB staff writer and first-generation journalism graduate from the University of Florida. His beats have ranged from Gainesville's city development, music scene and regional little league sports divisions. He has triple citizenship from the U.S., Ecuador and Brazil.

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