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Princeton’s Record on Asian Admissions Examined


The U.S. Department of Education has broadened a review into whether Princeton University discriminates against applicants of Asian descent.

The university said Tuesday that it’s providing admissions information to the Education Department as part of an investigation into whether it complies with civil-rights law.

The case stems from a federal civil-rights complaint filed in 2006 by Jian Li, a Chinese immigrant who grew up in Livingston.

Li said Princeton and other elite institutions rejected him, even though he had perfect SAT scores, was in the top 1 percent of his high school class and had earned other honors.

Li, who enrolled at Yale University but now goes to Harvard University, claimed that Princeton has set a cap on how many highly qualified Asian students it accepts, admitting less qualified applicants from other racial groups.

Earlier this year, the Education Department decided not just to look at Li’s complaint, but to conduct a general review of whether Princeton is complying with federal civil rights regulations with regard to Asian applicants, said Jim Bradshaw, a department spokesman.

Department officials, according to Bradshaw, are specifically looking at admissions data for the class of 2010, which Li applied to join.

Li said he had always hoped the complaint would be expanded beyond his individual case.

“This was never about my personal gain. It was rather about principle,” Li said.

Princeton says that the year Li applied, 14 percent of the admitted class was Asian. The university declined to give the percentage of Asian applicants but said no discrimination occurred.

“We consider each applicant as an individual, taking many factors into account as we seek to enroll a class that is both excellent and diverse,” said university spokeswoman Cass Cliatt.

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