Harvard Affirmative Action Trial Exposes Wealth Gap in Admissions Process
A trial in a lawsuit brought by conservative activists -- who created a group named Students for Fair Admissions and who argue that Harvard disfavors high-achieving Asian Americans and gives a boost to African American, Hispanic, and other traditional beneficiaries of affirmative action -- revealed that wealthy students outnumber low-income ones, 23 to one on campus. Richard Kahlenberg, a longtime advocate of affirmative action based on socioeconomic factors instead of race, testified on Monday as an expert witness for the group of Asian Americans suing Harvard. He said the college could increase both racial and economic diversity among its student body suggesting that the university ditch the advantage it gives students whose parents attended Harvard, those applicants tied to donors and staff members, and its early admissions program, which tends to benefit students who attend well-resourced high schools with counselors who know to guide some seniors to compete in that smaller pool. The result would be that the share of disadvantaged students, defined as those whose family income is $80,000 or less, would increase at Harvard from 17% to 54%. This option would keep the percentage of white students level, while slightly increasing the number of Asian American and Hispanic students on campus. However, the number of African American students would drop from about 14% to 10% under Kahlenberg’s model. A 2017 report showed that just 3% of students at Harvard came from the bottom fifth of the income ladder, while 70% came from families of the top fifth of income earners in the country. Harvard has investigated race-neutral alternatives but said they fail to meet Harvard’s educational goals of attracting top-level and diverse students. Harvard’s admissions readers use a summary sheet that includes information about the applicant’s race, gender, location, and academic background. Harvard says the only rating that considers an applicant’s race is the overall rating, which captures the admission reader’s total impression of an applicant and isn’t just an average of the other ratings. Harvard’s 2019 class is 40% white; 24% Asian American; 14% African American; and 14% Hispanic -- a massive 82% of those scholars are economically advantaged. The trial is expected to run through the end of the month. More here.