The end of racial preferences in admissions policies at some major public universities around the United States raised predictions that once-diverse campuses would revert to all-white (or nearly all-white) bastions.
The latest figures from the University of California indicate that concern may be overdrawn. At the most popular of the nine university campuses, Berkeley and Los Angeles, minority admissions have declined. But in the system as a whole, minority enrollment is slightly up from what it was in 1997, the last year that race was weighed in admissions decisions.
Even at Berkeley the picture defies quick categorization as a retreat from diversity. The number of Hispanics seeking admission to Berkeley was up 22 percent over the past year. African-American applicants were up 9 percent. Minority students are not spurning the campus because of the end of affirmative action.
When the University of California stopped racial preferences, it didn't drop the goal of opening its doors to students from disadvantaged, often minority, backgrounds. The university works with high schools that serve blacks and Hispanics to strengthen curricula, improve teacher training, and set up summer academic enrichment programs.
This "outreach," in the words of Ward Connerly, the black university regent who was instrumental in ending racial preferences, is "aimed at creating a competitive pool of minority students."
Such efforts may not be as simple, or as efficient, as racial preferences in admissions. But they come closer to addressing the real problems behind lagging minority representation on prestigious college campuses.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society