December 10, 2006
Written by C.N.
This should come as no surprise to any student who attends one of the nine University of California campuses, but now we have data to show the exact extent to which Asian American students are overrepresented within the U.C. system. Not only that, but at seven of the nine U.C. campuses, Asian Americans are the largest racial/ethnic group (even larger than Whites) and at my undergraduate alma mater U.C. Irvine. Asian Americans are the majority at 51% of the undergrad population:
Asian-Americans – 14.1 percent of California’s 2005 high school graduating class – make up 41.8 percent of the freshman class at UC campuses, up from 36 percent a decade ago. Meanwhile, blacks at 3 percent and whites at 32.2 percent make up smaller shares of UC’s freshman class than they did previously. Latinos account for 16.3 percent of UC freshmen, up from 13 percent a decade ago, but still less than half their 36.5 percentage of state high school graduates. . . .
If the high Asian numbers at UC are reflective of anything, Teranishi said, it is UC’s heavy reliance on grades and test scores. The UC admissions process has two phases: the first looks at grades and test scores to determine who is eligible for the university. The second part involves specific campuses considering academic and non-academic elements to select whom to admit. Asians have the largest portion of students meeting UC eligibility requirements, 31.4% in 2003, compared with an overall average of 14.4% among all California high school seniors. . . .
Some predict that certain minority groups will continue to shrink at UC. That’s prompted a group of influential UC academics to propose changes to UC’s decades-old eligibility system. By relying only on course grades and standardized test scores, UC’s eligibility may not reflect a wide enough definition of merit, said Michael Brown, a UC Santa Barbara education professor. Adding the consideration of non-academic factors, such as leadership, initiative or improvement in grades in the course of one’s high school career, may better gauge a student’s potential, Brown said.
Diversity and representation in education and college admissions is always a thorny issue. On the one hand, I’ve posted about how Asian Americans continue to be denied admissions to elite private colleges at higher rates than any other racial group. On the other hand, many Asian Americans feel that there’s more to life than just academics and that too many Asian American students at a single school can actually hurt us in the end.
It can be tough to separate out these different, but interrelated arguments. But the one thing that I do want to keep emphasize as important is that, for various reasons, Latino and Black students are still significantly underrepresented at the U.C.’s. With that in mind, I generally support efforts to expand the admissions criteria to include other “extracurricular” achievements that would ideally help more Black and Latino students get into the U.C.’s.
But then the question becomes, if this happens, would Asians lose out and get rejected even though they have stronger “objective” qualifications, which is exactly what’s happening now at many elite private colleges? Is it inevitable that when one group wins, another group loses? Honestly, I don’t have an answer for that yet. Stay tuned . . .
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Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Asian Americans Overrepresented at Univ. of CA" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2006/12/asian-americans-overrepresented-at-univ-of-ca/> ().
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