Include race in admissions

Public universities nationwide should consider racial diversity.

Universities across the nation may now start looking for other means of increasing and maintaining diversity, as last week the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Michigan’s ban on race-based affirmative action in the college admissions process.

Michigan added an amendment to the state constitution in 2006 that banned affirmative action practices in the admissions process at public universities. The court upheld the ban 6-2, stressing that there is no standard for dismissing the ban as discriminatory in the constitution and that Michigan voters have the right to add the amendment to their state constitution.

For high school students who want to attend college, tuition is an inevitable concern. For students from low-income families, tuition expenses often keep the possibility of a university education out of reach.

In Minnesota, people of color are more likely to live below the poverty line and are less likely to graduate high school on time than the state average.  While affirmative action’s basic assumption of higher education as a “great equalizer” is murky today, our education system still yields greater financial and personal opportunities to students.

We agree with the Court that there is nothing unconstitutional about Michigan’s ban on affirmative action. However, the ban itself is misguided in that it assumes racial inequalities are no longer a factor in higher education. Banning affirmative action means Michigan has lost one way to promote more equitable educational opportunities. It’s important that universities also begin bringing income or need into the admissions process as a means of promoting diversity.

Minnesota has not banned affirmative action, and it’s our hope that the University of Minnesota and other universities nationwide include income and ethnic diversity, after merit, as factors in college admission conversations.