How Does Race Affect College Admissions?

There have been several precedents changing the college admissions process over the years. For instance, many states, such as California and Michigan, have banned the use of affirmative action in admissions decisions at public colleges. Also, where quotas are no longer allowed, goals are. This means public colleges and universities can strive to have a certain percentage of minority students, but they cannot turn away other qualified applicants in order to reach this goal.

Private schools and private historically black colleges and universities that don't receive public funding can operate with a bit more leniency. They are still required by law not to discriminate; however, smaller, private schools may be able to consider race by more closely considering each application, compared with many larger, public schools that have a large influx of applicants.

Public schools without the ability to consider race as a factor may turn to other methods in order to attract more racially diverse applicants. These might include using minority students in outreach programs or spending more time recruiting at high schools with a high rate of diversity [source: Lewin].

In addition, admissions counselors often look beyond test scores and GPAs to weigh other factors, such as socioeconomic status. For example, many lower-income high schools don't offer Advanced Placement classes, so students there wouldn't have the opportunity to earn a weighted GPA above 4.0. If colleges only looked at the numbers, the students from higher-income regions might have more of an advantage simply because of the course offerings at their schools.

This type of multi-faceted approach to the admissions process can naturally bring about a more diverse student population as admissions officers get to know applicants' backgrounds as opposed to just the hard numbers. And, in some cases, considering other things such as socioeconomic status may bridge the minority gap in itself [source: Leonhardt].

When it boils down to the hard facts, most colleges and universities are concerned mainly with attaining a high graduation rate. The better your chance of completing your degree, the better your chance of being accepted. In the end, race -- if allowed to be considered at all -- is only one of the many factors college admissions officers can use when deciding to accept students.

On the next page, we'll hear from political and educational leaders and see whether race should continue to be considered in admissions at all.