The Truth Behind Affirmative Action: Is it a Blessing or a Curse?
Updated: 6 days ago
We’ve all heard the news about the Supreme Court striking down Affirmative Action for public and private colleges and universities nationwide. A few days ago, on June 29th 2023, history was made. What it means for the future of our country’s higher education system...we do not yet know.
For those of you asking “What even is affirmative action?” let’s start at the beginning. Affirmative action acted as a diversity inclusion policy, established by
President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965. It helped to remove the racial barrier when it came to college admissions by considering the demographics (including race) of the applicant. Creating equitable opportunity, affirmative action encouraged applications and admission of people of color into historically white institutions. This primarily impacted the systemically economically disadvantaged Black and Hispanic student populations. Achieving quality higher education leads to higher paying jobs and reduces the barrier to success that so many people of color in our society face.
On June 29th, the Supreme Court voted to withdraw affirmative action on the basis of violation of the 14th amendment's Equal Protection Clause where every American should receive equal protection. Military education institutions were excluded from the decision. Harvard and the University of North Carolina (UNC) systems were the basis of the case, as the conservative opinion on the court identified their admissions processes as biased in nature.
So what does the removal of this policy mean for the future of college admissions?
We can draw predictions from states that have repealed affirmative actions in their public university systems. California banned affirmative action in 1996 and almost immediately saw a 40% drop in their diversity enrollment rates. Even in 2021, with half a billion dollars spent on recruiting, universities are struggling to meet their diversity quotas. This includes top schools we would have expected to not be majorly affected like UC Berkeley and UCLA. With over 100,000 applicants and a low 14.4% admittance rate, this should not be the case. Much of the same was observed in Michigan, another state that had struck down affirmative action in 2006.
However, this may present more positively for Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) across the country. With the undeniable increase in competitiveness in college admissions across the country historically black and hispanic colleges may seem like a safer option to POC applicants. This influx of students will hopefully support a greater reservation of community and culture. However, it might also aid in the further segregation of white and POC populations.
Regardless, many colleges are already attempting to internally fight against the lack of affirmative action. Colleges have slowly been using a “holistic approach” to their admissions model, emphasizing personal essays and extracurriculars to a well-rounded education experience. COVID’s isolation policies resulted in test optional admissions and further supported this. Expensive standardized testing was previously required and presented as a huge barrier for economically disadvantaged populations. However, the pandemic was the first step in striking it down. A focus on applicant’s story rather than their statistics encourages more diverse acceptances.
The supreme court decision only disqualifies race as a deciding factor in admissions as the stand-alone reason. However, if students decide to write their personal essay about how their race, ethnicity and identity have affected their life, race can still be considered. Additionally, names of applicants can be further indicators of race.
While the future of this country is currently unsure, please remember support for POC students still exists. You are not alone. Top Tutors for Us is here to be one of those resources and supports. With innovative teaching and matching, we prioritize creating a culturally competent environment and education for the Black community. We have and are living your same experiences and encountering the same frustrations. Please use the comment section below to express your concerns, worries, thoughts and/or opinions. We welcome all.