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Published April 19, 2024

Survey finds majority of Americans believe race should not be factor in college admissions

A Pew Research Center survey found 73 percent of Americans believe race should not be considered in college or university admissions.
Image by Morgan La Casse

Illustrated by Morgan La Casse.

A Pew Research Center study released late last month found the majority of Americans do not think race or ethnicity should be a determining factor in college or university admissions. 

The report revealed 73 percent of Americans would rather college admissions be more color blind. The University of Minnesota uses a holistic approach when considering applications, said Executive Director of Admissions Heidi Meyer. It looks at factors that determine a student’s academic success first and then addresses secondary factors, like identity, background and past experiences, she added.

Fourth-year University of Minnesota student Tressa said she agreed race should not be considered in college admissions.

Tressa asked not to use her last name for fear of social media backlash. She does not want to be scrutinized or her words to be interpreted as racial or ethnic discrimination, she told the Minnesota Daily over email. 

“I was raised on the notion that the ‘most qualified person gets the job.’ I realize that this doesn’t always happen in the real world, but I believe it is something we as a society should strive for,” Tressa said. 

However, Olufemi Akindumila, a first-year student studying sociology of law, criminology and deviance, said he felt that race should be a determinant in college admissions because of the barriers that come with holding a minority identity. 

“There are a lot of obstacles that people of racial minorities have to go through that our white counterparts don’t. In America, we have this idea that success is all about our hard work, but the reality is that success is a lot more complicated than that,” he said. 

Meyer said a the holistic approach to reviewing applications enrolls a well-rounded student body. 

However, if race weren’t a factor in college admissions, Akindumila said students of color would be disadvantaged.

“A lot of times, minorities, regardless of whether they’re poor or if they’re rich, face certain barriers that make it that much harder for them to succeed,” he said.

Of those polled, more white respondents said that race should not be an admissions factor than did respondents from minority groups. However, the majority of respondents from minority groups agreed that race should not be considered. Tressa said she was not surprised by this fact.

“Applicants have no say in their race,” Tressa said. “However, by doing this, the admissions process is doing the very thing they are trying to avoid: giving one race preference over another.” 

Also, while both groups were mostly against race as a factor in college admissions, the study  showed that democrats supported it more than republicans. Akindumila said this isn’t surprising.

“From my understanding, conservatives often hold a ‘haul yourself up by your bootstraps’ mantra, [and] that if you work hard enough you’ll succeed,” he said. “But, if you look at the history of this country, it’s pretty hard to tell people that.”

Akindumila said he wished the University’s campus more accurately reflected Minneapolis’ racial diversity. Whereas black and Latino people make up approximately 18 and 10 percent of the Minneapolis’ population, they only make up approximately 6 and 4 percent of the student body, respectively. However, Tressa said she was happy with the diversity of the Twin Cities campus. 

“I do believe the U of M campus is diverse, and perfectly so. Why? Because I interact everyday with those who are different than me,” Tressa said. “Race is a part of that diversity, but diversity on this campus is so much more than just that,” Tressa said. 

While Meyer acknowledged that race has been a factor in admissions since fall 2003 and that it will continue to be, she said student applicants need to be academically successful first and foremost and that no factors outweigh the other. 

“In order to best live in a global society, students need to learn from and engage with others from a variety of backgrounds,” she said. “It’s really important that students leave here with a well-rounded education, and interact with different types of diversity, such as economic background, gender, religion, ethnicity or race.”

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