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Study: California Admissions Process Unfair to Blacks

Study: California Admissions Process Unfair to Blacks
By Ibram Rogers

Black applicants are being systematically blocked from the University of California system partly because of a flawed admission scheme, according to a new University of California, Los Angeles report.

The admissions process is overly reliant on numerical indicators of “merit,” such as SAT scores and weighted GPAs, says the report, which was produced by the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA.

“Those who are in a position to do something … are saying, ‘Our hands are tied, there’s nothing we can do without breaking the law,’” says Dr. Darnell Hunt, director of the Bunche center.

“We are saying that’s patently false,” he says. “There is something they can do. There’s something wrong with the admissions process.”

At the system’s three most selective universities — UC-Berkeley, UCLA and UC-San Diego — Black admits comprised 3.3 percent, 2 percent and 1.9 percent, respectively. Fewer than 100 Black freshmen are expected to enroll at UCLA this fall.

Meanwhile, the percentage of Black students who are eligible for admission more than doubled between 1996 and 2003. UC applications increased 24 percent between 1995 and 2004.

The rise in both factors suggests “that the low African-American admission rate at a campus like UCLA is hardly due to a
limited applicant pool,” the report says.

Instead, the report blames the low admissions numbers on the system’s admissions format, in which merit is too narrowly defined. “Merit” shouldn’t be based primarily on GPA and SAT scores, which neglect a number of other factors, the report says.

Hunt says the average GPA of the incoming class of students at UCLA is 4.27. Students from well-resourced schools can amass such high GPAs by taking weighted Advanced Placement courses, which aren’t offered at many Black high schools.

Instead of changing the admissions process, UC officials point to the well-documented inequalities of the California K-12 system and the passage of Proposition 209, which banned racial preferences in
admissions, to explain the decline of Black students in the UC system, Hunt says.

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