Updated: May 28
Dear Asian Youth,
It’s no secret that the college admissions process is becoming more competitive as the years go by. Higher standardized testing scores, higher GPAs, and more outstanding extracurriculars are just a few requirements that are necessities for today’s youth in the application process. As the race to college gets progressively more intense, it seems like minorities still face specific racial barriers. This fact was highlighted in 2019, when the Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) launched a lawsuit against Harvard University, which centered on Asian-American discrimination. It was found that Asian-American students made up 22.9%, were required to have a higher average SAT score, but had a lower rate of admission than any other racial group. Furthermore, it was discovered Asian-Americans would make up 43% of Harvard’s admitted class if only academics were considered. However, they are not the only minority that faces significant struggles in the admission process. According to the New York times, African-Americans represent only 6% of college freshmen, but make up 15% of college-age Americans. Hispanic populations at colleges are no different. No matter how you look at it, college campuses still are not diverse enough, considering students and staff alike, even with affirmative action. This is a huge issue because, without diversity, students are not exposed to different perspectives and backgrounds that can further educate them. Thus, working in a diverse group of people can make society healthier and stronger. So what exactly does the college application process look like for Black and Hispanic minorities today?
There have been some observed trends regarding these students that make college and higher education for Blacks and Hispanics a complex and prejudiced process. Often, gaps can be seen discouraging minority students to pursue degrees and careers such as engineering and education, mathematics and statistics, the physical sciences, and many STEM fields. In addressing the phenomenon, there are three main aspects: if people of color are choosing not to pursue certain majors, or if they are switching out them, if pricing is an encouraging or discouraging factor to different groups to push students into specific majors, whether or not introductory/general ed “weed-out” courses are having a harmful effect on diversity. In addressing the first and second issue, it is important to note that in high paying majors such as engineering, the cost to earn the credential is proportionately just as expensive. Take for example, in Dayton, where minority earnings have lowered 17% in a span of ten years while college prices have skyrocketed. This means a perpetuating cycle of loss in which minorities do not get the same opportunities to even attend institutions with high levels of education is present. In turn, the choice to not pursue high risk majors is a financial issue, where at the same time, encouraging lower feedback careers. More so, many institutions have recognized that students of color receive disproportionately lower primary educations. This means, in taking general courses, those who had better learning opportunities earlier in life are put at an advantage. Therefore, by having certain classes that are advantageous to those who have received a better K-12 education, it disheartens the chances of breaking the cycle. Later in life, this excludes many from professions and makes reform extremely difficult.
Recently, ACA-5 has wrongfully come under fire for supposedly setting a “racial proportion system,” or essentially, a “race quota.” ACA-5 bill, as well as the repeal of Prop 209, encourages, supports, and protects ALL BIPOC. What ACA-5 truly stands for is the consideration of race as part of the admissions process, so as to increase diversity in public California universities. This misinformed and groundless outcry against ACA-5 is yet another reminder of the fight we all face in bettering the college admissions process. It is a reminder that we must always stay informed and that we must fight for all BIPOC. To my Asian-American peers, remember that we are not a “tool” to be pitted against other minorities. We must stand in solidarity with other communities, never against them.
This leaves us with the question: what can be specifically done to improve the admissions process? One solution has been already put into place: affirmative action. This race-based policy was designed to help minorities by increasing diversity on college campuses (a benefit to all students), creating greater equity in the admissions process, and aiding social mobility. Affirmative action did come under fire for allegedly discriminating against Asian-American applicants, but it remains a crucial policy for increasing diversity, especially for Black and Latinx populations. Asian-Americans are stereotyped, studies have shown that they need 140 points on the SAT for the same consideration as white applicants, but Black and Latinx students also face a racist system that has been working against them, a system that goes way beyond stereotyping during the admissions process. Varying amounts of financial aid, college counseling during high school, and financial support once on campus, all affect the enrollment of Black and Latinx students. Moreover, African American students are more likely to attend for-profit colleges, thus taking more loans, which is yet another barrier in higher education. And so, we must acknowledge that there are severe barriers against all minorities, but we must also rectify the barriers that are deeply rooted in our society. As we’ve seen with the recent call to defund the police and refund communities in the BLM movement, issues that are deeply ingrained into our society need to be fixed by putting more money into the welfare of the people. Improving education using state-level data, looking at schools with greater amounts of diversity and learning from them, creating a “federal student-level data system to track outcomes by race,” using affirmative action to remove the systemic racism in higher education, all of these, and more, are potential solutions we need to implement to remove the racism in our education system. Things like affirmative action are trying to remedy the racism that is rooted in the college admissions process. It was selectively for white people, and that focus was never fully removed in the admissions process.
College education remains a prominent tool for social mobility. Trade schools, taking a gap year, entering a profession, all immediately remain viable options besides college, but they aren’t as popular in our culture today. Making sure that all potential college students get a fair admissions process, better access to resources they need before college, and removing the systemic racism that permeates our nation is an absolute priority (this, of course, goes way beyond college). Additionally, college campuses, and towns they take up, are often “liberal hotspots” where changes and different movements express themselves. We need more minority voices in those places to enact nation-wide change. We, as a nation, need to work better on increasing diversity, justice, and accessibility for minorities across America, and college campuses seem like a good place to start.
- Allison Li and Kaitlyn Fa