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What is affirmative Action in Higher Education?

One of the most contentious issues in college admissions today is affirmative action. People are rethinking how affirmative action affects college admissions—and whether universities should adjust their affirmative action policies—in light of the recent filing of two lawsuits against prominent colleges in the US.

Continue reading if you’re thinking about applying to college and want to know how the affirmative action controversy may impact admissions! What is affirmative action in college admissions? and current instances of affirmative action in education will be discussed in this article.

We’ll also cover how to prepare strong college applications regardless of what transpires and how to anticipate changes to affirmative action in higher education.

So, let’s get going.

Increasing diversity in the business and on college campuses is the main goal of affirmative action. By granting them equal access, the goal is to unite people from various ethnic, racial, and gender backgrounds.

what is affirmative action

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What is Affirmative Action in Higher Education?

With affirmative action, unlawful discrimination in the past, present, and future is intended to be ended and atoned for. Affirmative action laws and regulations generally aim to prevent candidates from being turned down because of their race, ethnicity, religion, nationality, age, gender, or handicap.

Affirmative action rules in college admissions aim to end racial discrimination against candidates and broaden the diversity of the student body.

State and federal governments impose rigorous regulations on affirmative action practices. Employers and educational institutions must provide documentation of their affirmative action policies and metrics in order to demonstrate compliance with laws. Affirmative action policies might be ruled unlawful if they don’t adhere to federal or state criteria for employers or educational institutions.

Giving every applicant equitable access to educational and employment opportunities is the aim of affirmative action. Affirmative action laws and policies have changed significantly throughout time. Let’s examine affirmative action’s history so that you can comprehend why it was created and how it has evolved over time.

Since John F. Kennedy, affirmative action has been practiced. It has existed for a while!

History of Affirmative Action

The idea that affirmative action legislation was initially intended to eliminate prejudice in college admissions is a widely held myth. That’s not the case, though! The earliest affirmative action regulations only covered hiring procedures and employers. Actually, they made no application at all for admission to colleges.

The original goal of affirmative action in the US was to provide everyone with equal employment chances. Executive Order 10925, signed by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, marked its debut. An employer must “take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed and that employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin,” according to the directive, if they are receiving government funds. In other words, the original goal of affirmative action was to combat employment discrimination.

President Kennedy’s policy was modified by President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Executive Order 11246 in 1965, which forbade employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, and (added in 1967) gender. All employment organizations that were awarded federal contracts and subcontracts have to abide by the updated law.

Affirmative Action in College Admissions: A Brief History

What then is affirmative action in the context of college admissions?

Despite the fact that early affirmative action laws did not apply to college admissions, several universities drew inspiration from these laws to develop their own affirmative action policies. These regulations had a positive impact on racial diversity on college campuses and helped end racial discrimination in admissions.

Many affirmative action initiatives for college admissions in the 1960s and 1970s used quotas to diversify the student body. These quotas reserve a fixed amount of openings for applicants who fit a particular racial profile. A university might, for instance, reserve 10% of its admissions slots for Asian students, 5% for Black students, and so on.

However, in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, the US Supreme Court declared quotas to be illegal in 1978. In this case, the court found that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the 14th Amendment are violated when race is used as the sole factor in admissions decisions.

Colleges and universities responded by expanding the scope of their affirmative action rules, a strategy that is frequently referred to as a “holistic” approach. Although not the main factor, race started to play a role in affirmative action measures. In other words, depending simply on their race, pupils would no longer be accepted or rejected.

Affirmative action supporters think the law gives underrepresented students more opportunities.

Affirmative action is a contentious topic, and people are currently fighting it out in the courts.

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what is affirmative action

Why Are Colleges That Use Affirmative Action Controversial?

Affirmative action is generally divisive because some think the practice favors some groups over others.

Affirmative action detractors contend that the practice exacerbates discrimination in college admissions. These people contend that giving advantages to one group based on race or another factor has an adverse effect on other groups. Those who subscribe to this viewpoint want affirmative action to be ruled unconstitutional and US colleges to stop using it for college admissions.

Affirmative action proponents assert that the practice is crucial for putting a stop to racial discrimination in college admissions. They also think it aids in atoning for prior discrimination. These individuals contend that taking race into account, among other things, diversifies college campuses and gives students a well-rounded education. The proponents of this viewpoint contend that race and other demographic issues must be taken into account in order to ensure equal opportunity for students from all backgrounds. Therefore, those who are in favor of affirmative action anticipate that the Supreme Court would uphold its legitimacy.

In 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court will consider two issues involving affirmative action. Their choice might permanently alter affirmative action.

Cases of Affirmative Action in Higher Education

Over the years, the Supreme Court has rendered decisions in numerous issues involving affirmative action in higher education. Two new affirmative action cases, Students for Fair Admissions v. President and Fellows of Harvard and Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina, were decided by the Supreme Court in 2022.

Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA), a group that opposes all racial admissions procedures, claims that affirmative action is discriminatory in both situations. This would need the Supreme Court to overrule a 2003 decision that supports institutions’ freedom to take race into account as one of many variables in a highly customized admissions review process.

The plaintiffs contend that by providing preference to Black, Hispanic, and Native American students over white and Asian students in both cases, Harvard and the University of North Carolina discriminate against them. In more detail, the Harvard lawsuit alleges that the school discriminates against Asian American students by evaluating applications based on traits like their likeability or friendliness. According to the plaintiffs in the Harvard lawsuit, this places a ceiling on the number of Asian American students who can be admitted.

According to the plaintiffs in both lawsuits, Harvard and UNC give certain candidates preferential consideration based on race. The plaintiffs want the Supreme Court to rule that affirmative action policies at both schools are unlawful since racial preference has previously been ruled illegal.

According to analysts, the proportion of Black and Latino students will decline at colleges across the country, especially prestigious schools, if the Supreme Court rules against Harvard and UNC. Black undergraduate enrolment in Michigan decreased from 7% in 2006, the year a referendum outlawing affirmative action was adopted, to 4% in 2021.

In the summer of 2023, the decisions in the Harvard and UNC cases are most likely to be made public. These instances of affirmative action in education serve as a helpful reminder that admissions policies—even those that have been in place for a long time—can alter at any time.

How College Admissions are Affected Today by College Affirmative Action

Currently, institutions are legally allowed to take race into account when making admissions decisions. They are not allowed to adopt quotas or rating systems that take race or minority status into account when deciding which pupils to accept or reject. The Supreme Court also mandates that colleges demonstrate there are no alternatives that are race-neutral and may be utilized to evaluate college applicants in place of race.

Affirmative action isn’t necessary in college admissions, despite that. Universities are free to employ or not use affirmative action measures. As long as they don’t break federal law, schools that do practice affirmative action are free to create their own rules.

Race, gender, nationality, and/or family income may now be taken into account by schools that practice affirmative action when making admissions choices. In general, the goal of taking these criteria into account is to increase diversity in their student body and to provide students from a wide range of backgrounds with an opportunity to pursue a college degree.

This means that whether affirmative action affects you and how it affects you depend on the specific policies of each university.

To find out exactly how many colleges apply the policy to analyze applicants, we can look at statistics on affirmative action in college admissions. 109 of the 577 public four-year institutions consider race when admitting students, according to data from the College Board and Ballotpedia from 2015.

Additionally, affirmative action is prohibited in nine states as of 2022, thus colleges in those states cannot take race into account when admitting students. California, Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, and Washington are some of these states. Race and other demographic characteristics won’t have any impact on the admissions decision you receive if you apply to a school in these states.

3 Tips to Prepare Ahead for Changes to College Affirmative Action

Although we can’t be positive, there’s always a chance that affirmative action policies in higher education will alter again. Planning beforehand will ensure that you are prepared when the deadline for college applications comes around because the future of this admissions policy is uncertain.

To help you prepare for college applications and be ready no matter what happens with affirmative action, we’ve put together three tips.

Tip 1: Research your topic

By conducting some research, you can keep up with what’s happening with affirmative action both nationally and at specific universities.

Start with a fast Google search before finalizing your pick of colleges and submitting your college applications. Look for any fresh or current news pieces on affirmative action in the US, particularly those that discuss the most recent Supreme Court cases we discussed earlier.

Focus your study on unbiased news sources and publications. To get a complete picture of what’s happening with affirmative action and how it’s affecting college admissions, read several sources and compare what you discover.

Tip 2: Examine websites for college admissions

Reviewing each school’s admissions guidelines is crucial if you plan to apply there.

A statement about affirmative action will be available on the website of schools that take race into account when admitting students. This will assist you in learning precisely how your application will be assessed, allowing you to create an outstanding application that is customized for each institution!

Contact the admissions office if you can’t seem to figure out how a school handles affirmative action in admissions. You can learn more about the school’s policy and get clarification on how affirmative action will apply to you from an admissions counselor.

Step 3: Make your college applications flawless

After conducting your research, use what you’ve discovered to strengthen your college applications. Whatever the situation with affirmative action in universities, it’s essential to focus your energy on creating the strongest college application you can.

Affirmative action might change whether your race is taken into account when deciding whether to admit you to a college, but it won’t change how the other aspects of your application are evaluated. Keep in mind that racial considerations in admissions are just one of several. Work on your spike approach, the SAT/ACT prep, and writing standout admissions essays that highlight your distinct skills and experiences.

The students that submit the most impressive applications will ultimately be accepted by colleges. This covers institutions that apply affirmative action. Students that submit poor applications will probably not be accepted, regardless of ethnicity. No matter where you go to college and regardless of their affirmative action policy, it is imperative that your college applications are flawless.

what is affirmative action

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the definition of affirmative action?

Affirmative action is a collection of policies intended to end illegal discrimination against candidates, address the effects of such discrimination in the past, and stop similar discrimination from happening in the future.

What significance does affirmative action have?

Enhances Equality - Affirmative action works to decrease inequity while fostering equality among individuals who are different from others. Equal Opportunities - Affirmative action ensures that all applicants are given the same chances to succeed in the workplace, in school, and in the world of business.

What are affirmative action’s four objectives?

Support for affirmative action has historically and worldwide aimed to achieve objectives like addressing income and employment disparities, expanding educational opportunities, fostering diversity, and redressing ostensible past wrongs, harms, or obstacles.



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