Carpe Diem

Does racial diversity really generate educational benefits valued by students, parents and employers? Maybe not

It is frequently taken for granted that racial diversity in higher education generates significant educational benefits that are highly valued by college students, parents of college students, college teachers, and employers who hire college graduates. As one example, that view of the alleged benefits of racial diversity in higher education is expressed here in a Detroit Free Press op-ed titled “What we have lost because of Michigan’s affirmative action ban” by UM regent Mark Bernstein and UM student Tyrell Collier:

Who are the victors at the University of Michigan after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Michigan’s affirmative action ban? Not students who want to learn with — and from — other students who don’t look like themselves. Not researchers and scholars who value collaboration on diverse teams to solve big problems. Not employers who demand critical thinkers who are able to work with colleagues from vastly different backgrounds. And, most importantly, not our nation that needs leaders who are able to reach beyond their own identity to find inclusive solutions to our greatest challenges.

Eight years after Michigan voters passed Proposal 2 and banned the consideration of race and gender in admissions, we are still working through the wreckage. In order to serve the people of Michigan and the world, the University of Michigan needs to look like all of Michigan and the world. But we don’t.

In the aftermath of Proposal 2, the university has tried virtually every possible race-neutral approach to preserve diversity. These efforts include aggressive outreach to lower income applicants. Schools within the university have increased attention to recruiting minority applicants. We enlist minority students, faculty and alumni to help persuade more admitted minorities to enroll. Family educational background is utilized as a form of socioeconomic affirmative action. These efforts are not working.

In 2006, the last year race could be considered in the admissions process, African Americans accounted for 6.4% of the first-year class. By 2012, black enrollment fell 28%, to 4.6%. From 2006 to 2012, Hispanic enrollment fell 26%, from 5.3% to 3.9% of the first-year class.

When Proposal 2 passed, we lost the ability to utilize the best available tool to build a diverse educational community — affirmative action.

MP: In 1995, when the University of Michigan was mechanically granting 20 extra “points” to minority applicants based only on race, black students were nearly 9% of Michigan undergraduates. After that admissions practice was ruled to be unconstitutional in 2003, and following the decision by Michigan voters in 2006 to ban racial profiling in college admissions, black students currently represent only 4.6% of Michigan undergraduate students.

The reduction by one-half in black students at Michigan as a share of undergraduate from 8.9% in 1995 to 4.6% raises a few questions:

1. Proponents of affirmative discrimination and racial profiling in college admissions must now conclude that the value of the educational experience at Michigan has been eroded due to the reduction in racial diversity. If prospective and current students, along with their parents agreed that racial diversity has significant education benefits, and that those benefits have now been reduced, shouldn’t that be reflected in fewer applications to Michigan, and an increase in students transferring to other universities with greater racial diversity?

2. If employers value the educational benefits of racial diversity while earning a college degree, shouldn’t we see a decline in the number of employers willing to hire Michigan graduates, in favor of the graduates of other universities with greater racial diversity?

3. Overall, shouldn’t the reduction in racial diversity at Michigan lead to a devaluation of a Michigan degree by students, parents and employers?

Bottom Line: Following the reduction by half in the share of black students at Michigan, I don’t think the number of students applying to Michigan has decreased, I don’t think employers have decreased their demand for Michigan graduates, and I don’t think the value of a Michigan degree has changed. Perhaps that means that administrators, regents, and minority students assign some theoretical value to the educational benefits of racial diversity, but that most students, parents and employers realistically and practically value the academic reputation and standards of a university, and place little value on the educational benefits of racial diversity?

13 thoughts on “Does racial diversity really generate educational benefits valued by students, parents and employers? Maybe not

  1. Mark — as a faculty member, you should know better than anyone that the primary consideration of universities is satisfying the faculty and administration. Students and others come after. The faculty at most of the “prestige” universities wants to satisfy it’s desire for social engineering.

  2. As many of these students are low income with no or little possibility of graduating it is in the best interest of the loan sharks to get them into the system. If they do graduate after 4 yrs of African Centrist and Womens studies they can spend a lifetime paying back the loans. I find it fascinating that “predatory lending” was never applied to Bursars, only bankers who were required to count aid to dependent children as income.

  3. Survey question to recent graduates: “Do you find the appalling genocidal and bigoted decline by over one half of the African-American scholar population in favor of more privileged and oppressive whites a benefit or a detriment to your perception of the societally-normed value of your education here at Michigan”?

    • Survey question: should all students be treated equally?

      Perhaps Applications should have no race or gender identifications. Names should be removed for the admissions officers and a ID number assigned to each app.. This way each applicant gets judged solely on their qualifications.

      • ” Names should be removed….”

        Interesting thought but why should that be necessary? Is it possible to determine someone’s race simply on the basis of their name? In a lot of cases, maybe. If the first name on the application is “LaTonya” or “Rhashan” the person named probably isn’t an Eskimo. The person bestowing the name must be well aware that it will have a significant influence on many aspects of that person’s life or little time or consideration would be given in its choice. It can be a conscious decision by a parent to racially identify a child by name. Why should that choice be hidden from anyone?

        • CM

          Names should be removed was meant to insure that admissions were made purely on merit. Who you are should not matter, what your abilities are should.

          • ” Who you are should not matter”

            Why not? It matters in virtually everything else. That’s why the state issues birth certificates, inoculation records, driver’s licenses and passports. All bureaucracies thrive on the collection of data that defines the history of specific individuals, as anyone that’s ever been caught up in the judicial system can affirm.

            And what’s with this merit thing? Should admission be determined by the results of a one-day standardized test, a bogus grade-point average in a meaningless and subjective course or a little essay or yards per reception? If a student skips school to watch a world series game and misses a second-level French final should they have to attend New Mexico Highlands instead of Princeton?

          • Chuck

            GMF: “Who you are should not matter

            chuck: ““Why not? It matters in virtually everything else.

            Maybe a better question would be: “why should who other people *think* we are matter?

            Obviously who we are matters in our relationships with those around us and those with whom we interact.

            That’s why the state issues birth certificates, inoculation records, driver’s licenses and passports.

            Why does the state have a need to know who we are?

            All bureaucracies thrive on the collection of data that defines the history of specific individuals can be used to control individuals

            And what’s with this merit thing? Should admission be determined by the results of a one-day standardized test, a bogus grade-point average in a meaningless and subjective course or a little essay or yards per reception?

            None of those things measure the value of a person, but if a person applies to an institute of higher learning, we can assume they want to attend and perhaps get an education.

            Grades and testing help determine whether a person is likely to succeed at that institution, or whether they are wasting their time and money. Those who do waste their time and money (somebody’s money) are also wasting a valuable resource that could have been put to better use by someone more qualified, who *would* benefit from the education.

            The use of grades and testing shouldn’t be a surprise to applicants, they know long years before applying that they will be tested. It’s not like a pop quiz on some day they aren’t ready.

            If a student skips school to watch a world series game and misses a second-level French final should they have to attend New Mexico Highlands instead of Princeton?

            Yes. They have demonstrated a lack of sincere interest in attending Princeton. They might benefit from remedial courses in “using good judgment” and “setting priorities”.

            None of your questions, and none of the answers indicate that anyone is being treated unfairly. Is there another point you’re making?

        • Chuck

          The person bestowing the name must be well aware that it will have a significant influence on many aspects of that person’s life or little time or consideration would be given in its choice. It can be a conscious decision by a parent to racially identify a child by name. Why should that choice be hidden from anyone?

          You’re absolutely right. Racial identity and pride in one’s heritage are important and shouldn’t be hidden – except from those tasked with making important decisions that could be influenced by personal biases – people like those checking college applications. There’s a reason “Justice” is pictured with a blindfold.

  4. As far as admissions at UM is concerned, this appears to have been a non-issue. UM’s admissions data reveals that between 2004 and 2013, the ethnic makeup of the student body as been virtually unchanged except for a decline in students identified as back and native Americans. Interestingly, the entire change seems to fall into a category introduced in 2010… “two or more.” It appears that this recategorization may be more technically correct, but muddies the water with regard to classification before 2010.

    https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ro.umich.edu%2Freport%2F13fa837.xlsx

    There is little doubt that black and white students are under-represented based on general population statistics and that Asians are over-represented. Part of the distortion may be due to foreign students who are welcomed with open arms because they pay significantly more tuition.

    http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/26000.html

    But that doesn’t mean that there is an admissions problem. More likely, it means that there needs to be a significant effort made to instill a higher value and passion for education within the black community so that there will be greater representation at universities. How this is done is still problematic. There is fault enough to go around.

    For example, Detroit school district, which is predominately black, was among the biggest spenders per student in the state, but the results were abysmal. Part of it was enormous waste and facility costs based on a population that was twice what it is now.

    Spending, if not properly directed, is not effective One can point to successes among the Detroit high schools. They need to be replicated. I’d also like to see the major SE Michigan universities actively involved in mentoring programs in predominantly black school districts so that the students can get the “real” story about competing in the educational arena.

    It is not the place of the University of Michigan or the State of Michigan to “fix” the problems created by individuals who adhere to dysfunctional life cultures and choices. While their offspring are disadvantaged by their progenitors’ “unfittingness”, it is the sad history of mankind that those individuals who cannot or will not adapt to the competitive forces of their societies will fail and flounder. Not all black or whites or Asians are adapted to compete in the hyper-academic environment of the University of Michigan. Just because blacks and whites are underrepresented when compared to their numerical proportions of their groups’ regional population is academically and socially irrelevant.

    Said another way, academic skills are not related to group size within a population and you cannot achieve academic excellence in a university by forcing those lacking superior academic skills into the university mix. Of course, if your goal is simply to say you have achieved numerical proportions equal to a regional population mix, then you must also be saying that academic excellence is a secondary priority to social engineering.

  5. Are you suffering on a boring, staid campus?

    Do you need more excitement and thrills when you make the midnight run from the library to the dorm room?

    Well if the answer is, “yes” then you should consider even more racial diversity to spice up life and make college more memorable…

  6. By the junior year, racial diversity doesn’t apply much to classes: a preponderance of blacks are in Black Studies, mostly white and latino in the College of Science, and lots of Asians in Business and Engineering. Wow, how are we going to “fix” that? (satire)

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