Dear BI Career Consultants:
How has the role of minority student recruitment officers been changed by the current use of admission “percentage plans,” such as the ones in place in California, Texas and Florida?
Essentially, the fundamental role of recruitment officers has not changed, even in the wake of the admission percentage plans at state institutions in California, Texas and Florida. The underlying role of college recruitment officers, especially those charged with the task of recruiting students of color, remains to recruit a diverse clientele of students to a given institution. Now, what is meant by diverse? I do not agree with advocates who infer that diversity exclusively means the multiple hues of skin found on students at our nation’s campuses. Instead, I submit, beyond students’ race, diversity of academic, social, cultural, regional and personal experiences also are critical components to consider.
Disturbingly, the percentage plan approach to diversifying college campuses fails woefully. The very crux of this measure appears to offer a Band-Aid approach to a much larger wound: American colleges and universities are still by and largely predominantly White. Elitist in its construct, percentage plans seek to award top-class percentile high school graduates with automatic admission to states’ top-ranked colleges and universities, leaving those who do not make the cut to choose other institutions, in some cases medium- and lower-tier schools. The percentile approach does little, if anything, to address the inadequacies in course offerings at suburban high schools versus those at urban ones. Equally disturbing, percentage plans also fail to address the disproportionate representation of students of color in graduate and professional school programs across the nation.
Although affirmative action is by no means flawless, its attempt has always been to remedy past and present inequities by instituting policies to diversify and create equal access to education for all.
College and university officials who truly seek to diversify will have to look much further than percentage plans for an equitable measure to bolster enrollment numbers for undergraduate, graduate and professional students of color.
Percentage plans, in my view, do not adequately address the issue of parity and equality in the college admissions process. Further, this approach underscores the danger in using a single criterion to make admissions decisions and sends a clarion message that colleges and universities still have a ways to go in diversifying our nation’s student populations.
Ghangis D. Carter
Director of Recruitment and Retention
College of Education
University of Illinois at Chicago
The “minority recruitment officer” is a thing of the past in the state of California, and Proposition 209, the statewide referendum that Ward Connerly got on the ballot that banned the consideration of race in hiring and college admissions in California, ensures that this will remain the case. Thus, percentage plans notwithstanding, colleges and universities in California continue to search for more creative ways to broaden their outreach and recruitment efforts. Implementation of the percentage plan which would grant admissions to students comprising the top 4 percent of all high schools in the state has begun at the University of California campuses, and is considered to be a creative effort to strike a balance between quality and the broadest possible access to students. The University of Texas began admitting students graduating in the top 10 percent of their high school class, regardless of test scores, about five years ago, in the same hope.
While many of the California State University campuses (which have an open-access policy) have some of the most diverse student bodies in the nation, the University of California (UC) system found the diversity of its entering classes adversely affected at its most prestigious campuses (UC Berkeley and UCLA) by policies that barred race-conscious admissions. Richard Atkinson, president of the University of California, announced at an American Council on Education meeting that he believed the SAT was a serious impediment to minority enrollment and should be replaced by a “comprehensive review” allowing a major shift in the university’s admissions policy to allow personal achievements, not just grades and test scores, to be considered for all freshman applicants. There are, indeed, serious controversies regarding the effectiveness of the SAT and the extent to which it discriminates against minorities.
Under UC rules, nonacademic factors, ranging from unusual athletic or artistic talent to overcoming adversity, could be taken into account in admitting no more than half the freshman class at each of the university’s eight undergraduate campuses. The remainder had to be chosen on the basis of grades, test scores and course work alone. The new policy would extend the broader evaluation to all applicants. Such broader and more inclusive approaches to college admissions are more likely to yield results than the percentage plans.
In the face of continuing assaults against affirmative action and an increasingly restrictive climate that hinders any targeted student recruiting, broad-based, comprehensive recruiting efforts that include outreach to inner-city schools and others with diverse student populations must be made.
Acting Executive Director for Diversity and Compliance, California State Polytechnic
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