Private college recruiters minimize 209/Hopwood impact – California’s Proposition 209; US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Hopwood decision

WASHINGTON

In spite of California’s Proposition 209 and the U.S.
Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Hopwood decision. minority students who
hope to go on to major institutions of higher education shouldn’t fret.

That was the sentiment expressed here at a national college fair by
recruiters who reject the idea that the anti-affirmative action
legislation would have a negative bearing on minority enrollment at
private institutions.

“In fact, probably just the opposite,’ said Edward Suarez, assistant
director of admissions for Pitzer, a private college in Claremont.
California. “We’re thinking that private schools are perhaps going to
receive more minority applications and, hopefully, enrollments.”

A desire to attract African American students to their campuses was
one of the primary reasons 165 public and private colleges attended the
national fair in Washington. D.C. which has a high concentration of
African American high school students. The fair, which is an annual
event, was held at the D.C. Convention Center, and was attended by
approximately 5,000 college hopefuls. Many of the high school juniors
and seniors attended as part of field trips organized by their schools,
which could account for the seeming lack of interest displayed by many
of the students.

Suarez said that Pitzer would be eager to pick up the slack of the
post-Prop 209 minority students who would perhaps not go on to the
California state schools. Indeed Pitzer, which boasts a minority
enrollment of 35 percent – only 5 percent African American – actively
recruits minorities throughout Los Angeles and other cities in
California. Suarez would like to see more Black and Hispanic students
at Pitzer, and considers measures that may keep minorities from
attending state institutions as a blessing for private schools.

Richard Blomgren, dean of admissions for Warren Wilson College, a
private school in Asheville, North Carolina, echoed the same thoughts.

“The bad news is affirmative action is wavering,” he said. “The good
news is, for private colleges. that may mean an increase in minority
applications.”

That may also mean a change in the application review process for
public schools who would still like to maintain a healthy minority
population. The University of California at Berkeley, whose admission
policies have been at the center of the debate, has begun to read every
single personal essay that students sub-mit with their application.

“They’re beginning to realize that for minority students, test
scores and grades don’t tell the whole story,” said Esther Hugo,
coordinator for multi-cultural concerns for the National Association
for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), sponsor of the College Fair.
“We’re just going to have to come up with creative ways to make sure
minorities are represented.”

And while the East Coast schools may not yet be affected by the
California legislation, Hugo feels that “the political climate is such
that many states are getting in line to endorse [initiatives similar to
Proposition 209,” the voter referendum which called for the end of all
race-based policies within California public institutions.

Audrey Hill, president of NACAC, agrees: “Attitudes are such, and
very strong, that if it came up for a vote by the people [in an East
Coast state], I think we would be very surprised that the numbers just
may support a Prop 209.”

However, Hill is confident that many of the East Coast schools are committed to maintaining high minority figures.

“Right now, I think most colleges in the East are…pro-affirmative
action and would fight [any anti-affirmative action initiatives],” she
said. “However, things probably will start to change in the next
several years.”

What will remain the same, Hugo believes, is that minority students
will continue to pursue higher education. And that continued pursuit,
she believes, will either force admission counselors to change their
review process, or schools to fight harder to keep their affirmative
action policies.

“There is a lot of enthusiasm” by African Americans for getting a
college education, Hugo said. “And I don’t see any of that dropping off
because of [Proposition] 209.”

COPYRIGHT 1997 Cox, Matthews & Associates



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