The use of race-based college admissions policies has officially ended.
The Supreme Court struck down the use of affirmative action in college admissions on Thursday in a 6-3 ruling on two cases from the University of North Carolina and Harvard University. The ruling represents a major victory for conservative activists, who have campaigned to remove race-conscious admissions policies for decades. This decision could change the makeup of student bodies at colleges across the country.
Families in Sammamish are paying close attention to what this may mean for their kids’ chances of getting into elite colleges. Local college counselors are guiding applicants and their families on this topic as part of their services.
Race-based affirmative action began in the 1960s and has been used as a policy to help historically disadvantaged racial groups in education. However, many people, including the plaintiff in the two court cases, argue that affirmative action discriminates against Asians.
Kiersten Murphy, the President of Murphy College Consultants, believes that Asians, particularly Asian males, are often at a disadvantage when applying to selective schools because they tend to apply to the same competitive majors such as computer science, engineering, and pre-med.
With years of experience in college consulting, Murphy knows that many elite universities tend to scrutinize Asian applicants more.
“When college admission officers evaluate applicants, they are seeking to build a pool of students who bring diverse perspectives, backgrounds, and interests to campus,” Murphy said. “In order to have that balance, the colleges are denying some of these really highly qualified Asian applicants in order to include students with other backgrounds, races, and genders.”
For years, Murphy has advised her students to focus on the value of the experience that the college offers rather than the brand and name.
Murphy said she is uncertain what impact the Supreme Court’s decision will have on local students but expects to see trends emerge in the coming years.
Anuradha Shenoy, who has been working as a college consultant for three years, believes the end of affirmative action could potentially benefit the Sammamish community, given Asians make up a large proportion of our population. Asian applicants would then have a better chance of being accepted, but the benefit may be small.
“At large, what happens is selective colleges are so selective,” Shenoy said. “If a student has a chance to get into those selective colleges, only then, I will start thinking about how affirmative action comes to a place with this student.”
For Jennifer Blanksteen, another college counselor in Sammamish who has worked for over a decade, the Supreme Court’s decision will not impact how she advises her students.
“I never said to my student, ‘don’t apply to this school because they don’t like your race’ or ‘apply to this school because your race is partial’,” said Blanksteen. “For me, it’s much more important to understand the student’s character, and the student’s intellectual interests and curiosities, and try to find the schools that match them the best and deliver four years of an ideal education.”
Shenoy also thinks any benefit may be short-lived. Colleges will eventually figure out other ways to diversify their student’s bodies without directly using a candidate’s race as a factor.
“If affirmative action goes away, what will happen is that colleges will think about how else to create diversity in their colleges,” Shenoy said. “Currently there are allocations for legacy students, student-athletes, and so on and so forth. Colleges will have to start addressing those to create diversity.”