Affirmative Action

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A Better
A Century Foundation Report

Affirmative

State Universities that Created Alternatives to Racial Preferences

Action:

Richard D. Kahlenberg

Individual State University Profiles by Halley Potter

A Century Foundation Report

A Better Affirmative Action
State Universities that Created Alternatives to Racial Preferences Richard D. Kahlenberg Individual State University Profiles by Halley Potter

The Century Foundation is a progressive nonpartisan think tank. Originally known as the Twentieth Century Fund, it was founded in 1919 and initially endowed by Edward Filene, a leading Republican businessman and champion of fair workplaces and employee ownership strategies, all with an eye to ensuring that economic opportunity is available to all. Today, TCF issues analyses and convenes and promotes the best thinkers and thinking across a range of public policy questions. Its work today focuses on issues of equity and opportunity in the United States, and how American values can be best sustained and advanced in a world of more diffuse power.

Board of Trustees of The Century Foundation
Bradley Abelow Jonathan Alter H. Brandt Ayers Alan Brinkley, Chairman Joseph A. Califano, Jr. Alexander Morgan Capron Hodding Carter III Edward E. David, Jr. Brewster C. Denny Charles V. Hamilton Melissa Harris-Perry Matina S. Horner Janice Nittoli, President Lewis B. Kaden Alicia H. Munnell Janice Nittoli P. Michael Pitfield John Podesta Richard Ravitch Alan Sagner Harvey I. Sloane, M.D. Kathleen M. Sullivan Shirley Williams William Julius Wilson

A Better Aff irmative Action: State Universities that Created Alternatives to Racial Preferences

Contents
Introduction I. Racial Affirmative Action in Higher Education May Be on Its Way Out 1

3

II. What Should Replace Racial Affirmative Action in Higher Education? 11 III. Profiles of States in Which Affirmative Action in College Admissions Has Been Banned 26 Notes About the Authors iii

63 70

A Better Aff irmative Action: State Universities that Created Alternatives to Racial Preferences

Introduction

1

After almost a half century, American higher education’s use of racial preferences in admissions to selective colleges may well be coming to an end.2 Race-based affirmative action, which was always meant to be temporary, has come under tremendous political and legal pressure in recent years. Seven states, with more than one-quarter of American high school students, have abandoned racial and ethnic preferences at state universities as a result of voter referendum, executive order, or legislative action. And, in a new legal challenge, Fisher v. University of Texas, the U.S. Supreme Court may very well curtail, or even eliminate, the ability of both public and private colleges and universities to employ racial and ethnic preferences in admissions.

The good news for people concerned about racial and economic justice is that, in those states which have banned racial affirmative action, legislators and university officials have not given up on pursuing diversity. To the contrary, as this report outlines, they have invented new systems of affirmative action that in many respects are superior to the ones being replaced as they are attentive to both economic and racial diversity.

Seven states, with more than one-quarter of American high school students, have abandoned racial and ethnic preferences at state universities as a result of voter referendum, executive order, or legislative action.

Producing racial and ethnic diversity without using the criteria of race is hard work and far less “efficient” than simply providing an admissions preference based on skin color. Constructing race-neutral alternatives requires universities to take a number of steps that advocates of social equality have long championed, but that universities, fixated on prestige and rankings in U.S News & World Report, are not eager to pursue. Where they have been banned from...
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