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College Access

Our current research topics related to college access include college admissions, affirmative action, financing, diversity, and underrepresented students in higher education.

Two thousand-eight marked the 30th anniversary of the Supreme Court's Bakke decision, which legally upheld the consideration of race as a factor in admissions decisions for the purpose of promoting diversity in higher education. Such affirmative action policies have opened the doors of selective colleges and universities to many more minority students than might have otherwise had opportunities. While access to higher education has improved for minorities in this country, that progress is still severely threatened due, in part, to a series of very serious attacks on affirmative action. In 1996, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, in Hopwood v. University of Texas Law School, ended all considerations of race in admissions, recruitment, and scholarships at the undergraduate and graduate school level at all public institutions under its jurisdiction (i.e., Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana). In 1996, California voters passed Proposition 209, a ballot initiative that also eliminated affirmative action in education, employment, and contracting throughout the state. And, the University of Michigan faced legal challenges in 2003 to both its undergraduate and law school admissions policies that give consideration to race/ethnicity.


Recent College Access Research

Research Item The Walls Around Opportunity: The Failure of Colorblind Policy for Higher Education
This new volume is the fourth of the Our Compelling Interests Series, housed at the University of Michigan's Center for Social Solutions and supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The series argues that diversity is critical for democracy to thrive. This installment explores the failure of colorblind solutions to resolve unequal education in the U.S.
Research Item Unequal Public Schools Makes Affirmative Action Essential for Equal Opportunity
The brief first presents new facts on the extraordinary segregation of Black and Latino students in the state’s public schools. Second, it shows that those groups are doubly segregated by race and poverty at the most educationally unsuccessful schools. These children are, on average, from families with far lower income and wealth and with parents with significantly less education. School is their chance to break the cycle of inequality but they are highly isolated in the state’s weakest schools, with very few having the opportunity to attend the competitive schools which are the most equipped to prepare students for access to a very competitive higher education system. The playing field is highly unequal — so many of the advantages that come to students from more privileged families do not reflect individual skill or merit in winning the race, but a much better starting point within the unequal public schools.
Research Item Policy Brief: Scholarly Findings on Affirmative Action Bans
This policy brief provides an overview of what is known about the impact of affirmative action bans nationally and complements research specific to California.
Research Item Prop 16 and a Brighter Future for All Californians: A Synthesis of Research on Affirmative Action, Enrollment, Educational Attainment and Careers at the UC
This policy brief synthesizes research on enrollment, graduation and career success for traditionally underrepresented students, the benefits of diverse learning environments including campus racial climate, and the need to increase diversity in UC professional and graduate schools to better serve the health and wellbeing of all Californians.
Research Item Asian Americans and Race-Conscious Admissions: Understanding the Conservative Opposition’s Strategy of Misinformation, Intimidation & Racial Division
This report examines the current wave of attacks against race-conscious policies in postsecondary admissions (or affirmative action as the policy is more commonly termed), focuses specifically on the roles that Asian Americans have come to play, both unwillingly and willingly, in opposition efforts, and presents new research on Asian Americans’ support for affirmative action.
Research Item How accountability can increase racial inequality: The case of federal risk-sharing
This research was presented in September 2018, along with 4 others looking at the impacts of current federal policies and/or proposals that impact college access for students of color. This paper finds federal risk-sharing policies based on loan repayment rates—even if well-intended—are likely to reinforce racial and economic inequality.
Research Item Alternative Paths to Diversity: Exploring and Implementing Effective College Admissions Policies
This report explores the issues before the Supreme Court of race-conscious affirmative action for college admissions, the continuing responsibilities of universities, and introduces a series of new studies, most commissioned by a collaboration between the Civil Rights Project and ETS.
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