An Asian-American’s View On Affirmative Action In College Admissions

The Supreme Court decided to strike down affirmative action in college admissions on June 29, 2023. Let me share an Asian-American's view on affirmative action. Despite only accounting for ~7% of the U.S. population, Asians are not viewed as a minority worth helping in gaining college admissions.

As an Asian-American debating on whether or not to pay private grade school tuition for thirteen years for each child, this Supreme Court decision has large financial ramifications.

Can you imagine paying $500,000 for thirteen years of private grade school tuition only for your child to go to Penn State instead of U Penn? No offense to Penn State students and graduates as it’s a fine university. This was just a headline I read on my Bloomberg terminal back in the 2000s. It has stuck with me ever since given I think about financial returns.

As a public high school and public college graduate, my preference is for public schools. Public schools are where kids interact with a wider range of socioeconomic backgrounds. There are also more student conflicts and fights in public schools, which may help toughen a kid up. Finally, it's free, which means a much lower risk of disappointment for getting into college.

Alas, in our household at least, it takes two to decide on where to send your kids to school.

Arguments For Affirmative Action In College Admissions

Affirmative action in college admissions refers to policies and practices that aim to increase the representation of historically marginalized groups, such as racial and ethnic minorities, women, and individuals from low-income backgrounds. Affirmative action in this Supreme Case is also referred to as “race-conscious admissions.”

Supporters of affirmative action argue for its implementation based on several key arguments:

1) Promoting Diversity

Affirmative action is seen as a means to promote diversity and ensure that college campuses reflect the broader demographic composition of society.

It recognizes that diversity in race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and life experiences enhances the educational environment by exposing students to different perspectives. Affirmative action fosters cross-cultural understanding and prepares students for a diverse workforce.

2) Addressing Historical Disadvantages

Proponents argue that affirmative action is a way to address historical disadvantages and systemic inequalities faced by certain groups. It acknowledges that these groups have been historically underrepresented and provides them with opportunities they might not have had otherwise.

By taking into account an applicant's background, affirmative action seeks to rectify past and ongoing discrimination and level the playing field.

3) Ensuring Equal Opportunity

Supporters of affirmative action contend that it helps ensure equal opportunity by considering the broader context in which individuals have achieved their qualifications. Recognizing that not all applicants start from the same baseline, it aims to mitigate the effects of socioeconomic disparities, unequal access to quality education, and other barriers that can limit opportunities for marginalized groups.

4) Enhancing Educational Benefits

Affirmative action advocates argue that diverse student bodies lead to enhanced educational experiences. Interacting with individuals from different backgrounds can broaden perspectives, challenge preconceived notions, and promote critical thinking and cultural competency.

It prepares students to navigate an increasingly diverse society and workforce, fostering skills that are essential for success in the globalized world.

5) Promoting Social Mobility

Affirmative action is seen as a mechanism to promote upward social mobility by providing opportunities for individuals who may not have otherwise gained access to higher education.

By increasing the representation of historically disadvantaged groups in colleges and universities, it can lead to greater economic and social mobility for individuals and their communities, breaking cycles of generational poverty.

6) Meeting Legal and Moral Obligations

Supporters argue that affirmative action is a way for institutions to meet legal and moral obligations to promote equity and fairness. It aligns with principles of equal protection and non-discrimination, as outlined in civil rights legislation. Additionally, it reflects a commitment to rectifying past injustices and fostering a more inclusive society.

Arguments Against Affirmative Action In College Admissions

Arguments against affirmative action in college admissions are often based on concerns about fairness, meritocracy, and potential unintended consequences. Here are some common arguments made by critics of affirmative action:

1) Reverse Discrimination

Critics argue that affirmative action can result in reverse discrimination, where qualified individuals from non-preferred groups are overlooked or disadvantaged solely based on their race, ethnicity, or gender. They argue that decisions should be made solely on merit and qualifications, without considering factors such as race or ethnicity.

2) Undermining Meritocracy

Opponents contend that affirmative action undermines the principle of meritocracy, which suggests that admissions decisions should be based solely on an individual's abilities, achievements, and qualifications.

They argue that affirmative action can lead to less qualified candidates being admitted over more qualified candidates, which they see as unfair and detrimental to academic standards.

3) Stereotype Threat

Some argue that affirmative action can inadvertently reinforce negative stereotypes by suggesting that certain groups need special treatment or lower standards to succeed. This, in turn, may create a sense of doubt and pressure on individuals from underrepresented groups, potentially affecting their confidence and performance.

4) Disadvantages Non-Underrepresented Groups

Critics argue that affirmative action can create disadvantages for individuals from non-underrepresented groups, particularly white and Asian American applicants. They contend that these individuals may face increased competition and reduced chances of admission due to affirmative action policies.

5) Lack of Individual Assessment

Critics express concern that affirmative action policies rely heavily on group-based characteristics, such as race or ethnicity, rather than individual qualifications and achievements. They argue that this approach can overlook or diminish the unique talents, skills, and experiences of applicants within these groups.

6) Unintended Consequences

Opponents of affirmative action caution that such policies may not always achieve their desired goals. They argue that affirmative action can lead to mismatching, where students who are admitted with lower qualifications struggle to succeed academically. This can potentially result in higher dropout rates and reduced graduation rates among underrepresented students.

7) Perpetuating Division

Some argue that affirmative action can perpetuate divisions and racial tensions by emphasizing group identities and differences rather than promoting a color-blind society. Critics contend that focusing on race and ethnicity in admissions can impede efforts to create a more inclusive and harmonious society.

Alternative Approach To Affirmative Action In College Admissions

Critics of affirmative action suggest that alternative approaches, such as socio-economic-based admissions, can address socioeconomic disadvantages without relying on race or ethnicity as a determining factor.

They argue that considering socioeconomic status can capture a broader range of disadvantages and promote diversity without directly factoring in race or ethnicity.

An Asian-American's View On Affirmative Action When I Was A Student

As someone who came to America as a high school freshman in 1991, I felt I had no say about affirmative action in college admissions. I had not suffered or benefitted from my race given I grew up in Zambia, The Philippines, Japan, Taiwan, and Malaysia.

I understood my parents were middle-class given they worked for the United States State Department. We lived in a modest townhouse and drove an eight-year-old Toyota Camry. The Camry was actually an upgrade from the paintless 1976 Datsun we drove in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

I mainly wanted to go to a public university because it was cheaper. It seemed absurd to spend $20,000+ on tuition when we could spend $2,800 a year. I was earning $4/hour working at McDonald's, so I had perspective! I also had a good idea how much my parents made.

Virginia had UVA, William & Mary, Mary Washington, James Madison, George Mason, and Virginia Tech. Based on the college rankings at the time, these were good-enough schools to attend, especially for the cost.

I was neither gifted academically nor athletically to get into a top 20 private college, so I didn't bother applying. Private college tuition was too much to bear for our household. I wanted to pay my own way, eventually.

Didn't Think About My Race

As I learned more about slavery and other historical injustices against Blacks and other minorities in America, I became a proponent of affirmative action, which began in the 1960s. Who wouldn't want to help right historical wrongs that disadvantaged generations over time? If we have the opportunity to help, we must.

Even though I was waitlisted from a couple of colleges, I never felt like race was a deciding factor. I felt like my mediocre SAT test score and 3.68 GPA simply weren't good enough to get in. My essays probably didn't sound very natural either since I used a lot of SAT vocabulary words! Oh the irony.

I never felt some undeserving kid got into a better school than me due to their race. Instead, I was just thankful I got into The College of William & Mary! William & Mary and UVA were my two target schools.

Yes, I experienced racism in Virginia during high school and college. Each incident was an eye-opening experience that lit a fire in me to achieve financial independence ASAP. I wanted to be beholden to no one!

Most say the Supreme Court should allow for affirmative action in college admissions

Asian-American's Thoughts On Affirmative Action As A Father

Now that thirty years have passed since I first applied to college, I wonder how long affirmative action in college admissions should continue. While I still believe society should still take action to right historical wrongs, to what degree is the dilemma?

When I see Asian-Americans with 1,500+ SAT scores and 4.0+ GPAs regularly get rejected by top 20 universities, I feel like my children have no hope in getting into a top university. I don't want them to try really hard during grade school only to be told they aren't good enough because of their race.

We know that some private universities game the system by accepting wealthy underrepresented minorities from outside the U.S. to help fulfill diversity requirements. That's not right since we're trying to help Americans who were screwed over in the past.

We also know there is a large difference in SAT scores by race for accepted students at top private universities. Perhaps because of this, there's been a greater push to ban SAT scores in college admissions. This way, colleges have even more leeway in who they get to accept while potentially facing fewer discrimination lawsuits.

The funny thing is, as someone who didn't score highly on the SAT, I don't mind if the SAT or ACT are never required again. I'm just more annoyed at the subjective Personal rating system Harvard uses to throttle Asian American admissions.

SAT scores for admission by race

A Better Type Of Affirmative Action

Today, I feel that affirmative action based on wealth and whether one has a disability seems like a fairer solution.

If you are poor, you may not have the same family support and resources to do well in school.

I did not grow up poor, but I still had to go to the library or Barnes & Noble and flip through SAT preparation books. I thought I was learning how to be a better test taker. But in reality I was fooling myself by just skimming the surface.

My rich classmates, on the other hand, had parents who sent them to $2,500 Princeton Review SAT courses. Of course they ended up scoring better than me. Wealthy classmates such as Konrad went to Columbia and Maureen went to Dartmouth.

Take a look at embattled Harvard President, Claudine Gay. Her family controls the cement business in Haiti and she went to Philips Academy Exeter, an elite private boarding school in New Hampshire. Despite not supporting Jews when asked by Congress whether the genocide of Jews is OK and also being accused of plagiarism, she still gets to keep her top job at a top university.

Most people believe affirmative action should help Black Americans wronged by White Americans in the past, not wealthy Blacks from foreign countries. However, if you look at the wealth backgrounds of those Blacks accepted at elite universities, many are foreigners from wealthy families. As a result, you are seeing a decline in Harvard's reputation.

Fight For Those With Disabilities

If you have a visual impairment, you may have a more difficult time seeing the chalkboard in class. The questions on an exam may also be harder to read. As a result, you might zone off or just pretend you can see just to fit in as a teenager. At the very least, you may need more time on your exams.

Without proper accommodations over the years, you may fall behind your peers who get to learn in full 20/20 vision.

If you were born with a disability that makes it more difficult or impossible to see, hear, move, process, socialize, and understand, competing will likely be more difficult.

Roughly 15% of the world's population has some level of disability, and it affects people of all races. This is the minority we should be fighting for the most.

60 years after affirmative action was introduced, I'd prefer to see economically disadvantaged kids and kids with disabilities from all races get more help instead.

Financial Samurai For All

When I write my articles on Financial Samurai, I'm not thinking about the race of the reader. I'm thinking about the financial question or problem the reader has.

I’m also conscious about people with visual impairments, which is why I’ve increased the font size in my latest site redesign and am recording more podcasts (Apple) to provide more accessibility.

All the content on Financial Samurai is already free, including my weekly newsletter. I've already got my “endowment” with our investments generating livable passive income, so charging a fee to access my content doesn't feel right.

I don't want anybody to be excluded from learning about personal finance if they want to. But maybe some universities do in order to maintain their air of exclusivity.

views on affirmative action at selective colleges by race, whether they approve or now - Pew Research Study

Affirmative Action For Legacy Students

Top universities are doing away with SAT/ACT scores before doing away with legacy admissions. That’s a telling sign.

Take a look at the admit rates for ALDC students (recruited athletes, legacies, those on the dean’s interest list, and children of faculty and staff). It is way higher than non-ALDC students by a factor of six to twelve.

Therefore, one could argue elite private universities are really supporting affirmative action for white students, given over ~43% of ALDC applications are white. We can also argue that legacy admissions is affirmative action for wealthier people given the disproportionate representation of the top one percent attending such schools.

Change is hard, even for the very universities that are trying to diversify. Hence, if you can't beat the system, then you may want to join the system by getting as rich as possible.

How To Help Your Kids If They Are Negatively Affected By Affirmative Action

The ultimate goal of affirmative action is to provide upward mobility for historically disadvantaged people. After generations of discrimination, the compounding effects can be extremely detrimental.

Unfortunately, affirmative action in college admissions is often perceived as a zero-sum game. There are only a certain number of spots and the number of spots have not grown commensurately with the rise in demand.

I've decided to accept the situation for what it is. Even with race-conscious admissions no longer allowed, universities will still find away to ascertain an applicants race. Instead of complaining about why life isn't fair, I've decided to control what I can control.

Here are some things we parents can do:

  • Have a harmonious relationship with our significant others to provide more love and support at home
  • Teach them a second language to provide them with more opportunities if the English world shuts them out
  • Encourage them to try harder and build grit because effort is what they can control
  • Teach kids to love who they are to help build their self-esteem

Spending more time educating our own children is the biggest win. We shouldn't outsource all of our children's education to schools.

If my kids succeed without the help of affirmative action, they will gain tremendous self-esteem. If my kids get rejected everywhere despite being good students, then at least they'll understand that's just the way things are in society. The opportunity to overcome obstacles is part of life.

Are you for or against affirmative action in college admissions?

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Where You Go To College Isn't Going To Make Or Break You

Where you go to college matters. But whether you go to an accredited four-year college or not matters way more. Either go to a trade school or go to a reputable college that is affordable. The more affordable education you can get, generally the better.

Most of us aren't attending one of the top 25 private college in the nation. Therefore, affirmative action probably has little-to-no effect on the majority.

The University of California, the largest college system, for example, did away with affirmative action in 1996. Plenty of other public colleges have as well.

In addition, most colleges will find away to continue affirmative action if it is banned. For example, a mandatory essay to apply to the college might ask, “Tell us more about who you are?”

lifetime earnings of high school graduate versus college graduates

Income Levels Are Massively Different

I've already written how unimpressive the median income is for Ivy League graduates. You would think attending a top 0.35% school would at least result in a top 10% median income for its graduates. But this is not the case.

As a result, don't worry if you didn't attend a top college. Instead, focus on being a hard worker, a good communicator, and someone who is always willing to help others.

It's hard not to get ahead if you consistently do these things. Eventually, something good will happen if you stick things through long enough.

And if you really believe in your merits, become an entrepreneur! This way you can more easily bypass the gatekeepers who you perceive might be keeping you down. As an entrepreneur, there's nobody to blame or reward but yourself.

A Good Debate On Whether Affirmative Action Is Unfair To Asian Americans

Here is a good debate about whether affirmative action is unfair to Asian Americans. The entire Open To Debate podcast is great and worth listening to.

Join 60,000+ others and sign up for the free Financial Samurai newsletter and posts via e-mail. Financial Samurai is one of the largest independently-owned personal finance sites that started in 2009.

81 thoughts on “An Asian-American’s View On Affirmative Action In College Admissions”

  1. By now we should know that this Supreme Court ruling will not change much.
    Colleges will find other markers besides testing to reach the student body makeup they desire.
    No matter what Asian activists say, Harvard/Ivy League etc is not going to let Asians comprise 50+ percent of its students.
    Asians as a majority does not represent society.

    1. True. I think colleges will be more cautious on being too overt given they don’t want to face future discrimination lawsuits. But there won’t be equality of admissions. It’s impossible with so many subjective criteria.

  2. I would like to see your advice for people who are Not going into finance or high paying fields to manage a financially secure future. Saving as much as possible early on and investing is of course excellent advice at all levels but teaching, for example, is not a profession that leaves a lot leftover for saving. Buying sound used cars and paying cash is sensible as is buying a house with a solid down payment with access to good public transportation so as to avoid needing a second (or first) car. Sound financial advice for students in the humanities rather than those planning on careers on Wall Street would be welcome and might well be different. Please enlarge upon this idea.

  3. If I would be applying for college what would keep me from lying about my race. If I write black would anyone dare to question that. Maybe the financial samurai’s kids can try it and report how it works

  4. Affirmative action is in many ways arbitrary. It also makes Archie Bunkerism logical. If you have to choose between two doctors who have identical credentials you’d be wise to pick the Asian or white every time. It is *logical* to think the black or Hispanic doctor with the same degree from the same institution is probably less qualified.

    Thomas Sowell has written extensively on this and Clarence Thomas has also mentioned that these racial quotas cheapen the accomplishments of people like him.

    There is no good reason, moral sociological or even legal, to support affirmative action. All it does is out less qualified people in places where they’re more likely to fail at the expense of the more qualified. It breeds racial animosity.

    Fir the record I’m of two white ethnicities that were treated very poorly. We were not considered white. We mostly rose up the same way the Jews and Asians did and the way any group should be expected to. My kids are half Asian. If one of them knocks everything out of the park but doesn’t get into a Yale or Harvard because a bunch of upper middle class black kids with 1300/1400 SAT scores everyone loses. Punishing the Asians, who were also discriminated against and who rise up through the meritocracy, is truly diabolical. Good riddance and shame on anyone who supports affirmative action.

  5. As an African American who attended one of these schools, I was shocked at low number of African American students in the black student body. I initially thought affirmative action should do more to prioritize people like me.

    However, I since learned the US prevented non-Europeans from immigrating to the US and practiced economic imperialism in many of these countries. I’ve since come around; since the US has discriminated globally, affirmative action in college admissions should apply to a global student body.

    Also, in the US, affirmative action should be applied far before it’s time to apply to college. Think things like healthcare, K-12 education, child care, etc.

  6. As an Asian American, I’m adamantly against affirmative action in the way it currently works, but I do support race based admissions. For some food for thought, see below for a post from a Hmong redditor who shared his thoughts on how affirmative actions is really unfair towards poor asian americans (who constitute a much larger population in the US than politicians would ever give us credit for):


    As a Hmong refugee, here are my two cents about affirmative actions. Dear White, Black, Latino, Asians, and Native Americans:

    As a Hmong refugee, I want to send some messages to every race. I LIVED through a f*cking war with parents who NEVER received a formal education. My parents are DISABLED due to manual labor work in the jungle. They HAD to hide in the jungle and do manual labor work because Americans FORCED them to assist with the Secret War. Then Americans purposely LEFT, so we became the target for communists. We came to this country TRAUMATIZED with ZERO cent in our pockets. We DID NOT HAVE TV nor did we know what JUICE was. We ARE NOT your typical refugees or immigrants where we received FORMALIZED education in our home country. If you ARE NOT literate, IT IS F*CKING hard to understand literacy in another language. You should understand what I mean because some of y’all LITERATE folks struggle in your Spanish or Mandarin class in high school. I know because I took classes with you all.

    We were displaced in the HOOD with mostly African Americans and became a target for them to bully. Due to language barriers and being the minority in the HOOD, it was EASY for African Americans to pick on us on a DAILY BASIS. This is not being anti-Black. This is the REAL experience of a typical Hmong family. Go ask most of the middle age and older Hmong folks (I know y’all will invalidate me and say that I am lying because your Hmong friend didn’t experience bullying from African Americans). We had to form gangs to protect our families. This is why it is SO difficult for us to become educated. Most of us LIVED and still live in section 8, multigenerational homes, and are receiving food stamp. We go to some of the worst public schools in the nation due to the location that we grew up. This is the REAL experience of the Hmong community! We are NOT privileged. We are NOT White adjacent.

    Dear White People: You are the problem. Your goal is to divide the minorities so you can achieve what you want — White people be more educated and superior than any other race. You don’t see legacy admission as an issue because you know clearly that it is mostly filled with White people. You ARE threatened by the merits of Asian Americans (AA). To bring AA down, you ACT like you care about the African American community. You use AA data to demonstrate overrepresentation, so the Black and Latino communities will target the Asians.

    Dear African Americans: While I felt bad for your history of oppression, that is NONE of my business. My race has never enslaved and displaced your community in a low-income neighborhood. Don’t act like it is my fault. We are in this together. My ethnicity has been oppressed for hundreds of years, but why do not care about me? Why do you get SO defended when I talk about being oppressed? I am not COMPARING my experience with yours, but I want to make it CLEAR that I lived in the jungle worrying about my life on a daily basis. I am ALSO struggling like YOU. It was normal for me to see people getting shot in the jungle, but how am I privileged? Again, why are you offended? I don’t need anything from you, but I want to be HEARD. Why do categorize me as White adjacent and privileged when I am oppressed like you? If you want to resolve this issue, tell the colleges to give extra points based on SOCIOECONOMIC STATUS. This will BENEFIT both your and my community. Focus on the real issue.

    Dear Asian Americans: For all the privileged AA who feel entitled to educate me on the oppression of African Americans, shut the f*ck up. I am willing to learn, but let the Black community educate me. Don’t act like you understand oppression just because you took a course. If anything, I am MORE oppressed than you, my fellow AA. Just because you are privileged, it DOES NOT mean that I am. Do you know that I went to the worst school and my application to college was COMPARED to yours? Do you know that it was normal for me to see shootings every day in the hood? Do you know how traumatizing it was but I had to keep up my academics so I can be compared with you? Fortunately, I went to a top 20 school for both my bachelor and master’s degrees. My parents COULD NOT afford to drive me 20 minutes to take my SAT because we WERE too POOR. Don’t lecture me on why we should have a car if we can’t afford gas. We can’t afford to live in the city and have to live in a RURAL part. Hence, don’t teach me about oppression or label me as privileged because I am NOT. Maybe you are, but don’t include ME by saying that Asian Americans are privileged! Also, if you see your fellow AA getting rejected by a top school, why do automatically assume that they only had good grades and standardized test scores but no personality or community service? Do you know that even the AA that did community service and had a good story DID NOT get into top colleges because they have to compete with their fellow AA for a spot? Did you know that I had to compete with other AA for spots in scholarships? It was SO UNFAIR because I did not grow up in a normal life where I had tutoring resources, yet I had to keep my SAT and GPA as high as yours. Lastly, please understand that there are more AA than you. Talk about the poor Southeast Asians. Let them speak about their experiences. Stop acting like you grew up in poverty because your family is WORKING CLASS. No offense to all Americans, but working class is nothing near the poverty that I came from. Do you know why I am against Affirmative Action? It is because I am being COMPARED to you when my struggles are more! It is because other minorities are INVALIDATING my struggles and lumping me with you when I am probably even poorer than them. Do you UNDERSTAND that NO RACE cares about us?

    Dear Latinos: While I feel bad that many of your kind had to migrate due to violence, I can’t deny that the majority of you CHOSE to come to America for better economic opportunities. Of course, I would do what you did for my family, but don’t project your anger and insecurity towards AA. We are trying to live like you. Many Vietnamese, Laotians, Cambodians, Filipinos and Hmong came to this country to escape violence and have a better economic life. We understand exactly how it feels. However, if you are going to label me as PRIVILEGED, I want you to know that you are more PRIVILEGED than I am. This is a FACT, and you cannot DENY THIS. I don’t buy in your story talking about how your parents or grandparents only went to ELEMENTARY school due to poverty in your home country. My ancestors RECEIVED zero formal education. There’s a difference between elementary and zero. We spent most of our lives hiding in the jungle and surviving for our lives. Stop acting like you WORKED harder than AA and deserve better treatments at school. I’ve gone to school with some of you and I see that some mostly complain and party but are not doing anything to fix the issue. Get your grades up and don’t get mad when a POOR AA gets into a top college while you did not because your grade is too low from partying too hard. If you want to resolve this issue, tell the colleges to give extra points based on SOCIOECONOMIC STATUS. This will BENEFIT both your and my community. Focus on the real issue.

    Dear Native Americans: You are the ignored group. No one cares about what you went through. I find it very sad because you are the group that deserves the most attention. I wish you the best. I hope that you will be able to get your country back.

    1. There’s a certain irony to someone crying about them experiencing racism from AA and others for being treated like an honorary white person, and then turning around and blaming whites for it, as if that’s the group benefiting the most from all the handouts and affirmative action.

      Then to top it off they say they hope Native Americans get their land back (kill the white people?) If that’s how they feel, they should leave, they’re no different than the settlers.

  7. As an Asian Canadian-American, I had the luck to pay only Canadian rates for a GREAT undergrad and also MBA without going broke!.

    Now that I had paid for 2 children going to private universities, I can understand why there is so much angst about acceptance and cost. I personally believe that it doesn’t matter if your children go to IVY. They should go to the upper education place (at least fairly well recognized) to get their education / degree.

    IF your children are talented., they will find a way to rise to the top. HOPEFULLY, others will find that.

    So affirmative action is good but not nec. the end.

  8. Hello,
    The best minds and education are at private schools funded by established parents who can afford it.

  9. As one of your blind subscribers, I appreciated the shout out to the disability community. Somehow we get left out of the mainstream DEI discussions.

    The court ruling will have little impact on college admissions. Universities will figure out a way to maintain the current tone of equality and inclusion, because I’m sure this will have bearing on donations. And, on the surface, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with doing what we can to level the playing field.

    I apologize if this has already been raised elsewhere in the comments, but on some level there must be a disservice being committed by allowing minority representatives to a rigorous institution. Should expectations be lowered to accommodate students from underperforming school districts just to make the complete college experience more fair?

    We’re too backward in this country. Rather than try to fix the problem of inflating college tuitions, we try to pay off students’ debt. A one shot solution to a long-term problem. That’s kind of how it feels with affirmative action. Let’s pretend like equalizing education will dramatically increase the odds of finding equal opportunities in the job market. I work for a well-known entity, but I’m not foolish enough to believe that if I were to leave tomorrow, my prospects would be lining up. In people’s eyes, I am blind first. I have to work twice as hard to prove my worth. My having gone to an ivy league would not have changed that reality either.

  10. I think it’s unfair that there are so few Asians in professional sports. How can we tip the scales to make sure that fine folks like yourself have a place on the ATP?

      1. Nope, i think Asians should get a handicap because we couldn’t afford all the private lessons of Golf.

  11. David Rothman

    I strongly believe that at least the first two years of a local community College should be free. Granted, I am not sure how it could be paid for but I’m sure we could find a way.
    In a sense, that is affirmative action, yet does not discriminate against anyone. If a person needs to improve certain grades in certain subjects in order to qualify for a particular program or just to get over minimum standards to get into the college then those courses should be offered free as well.
    This allows everyone an even chance and those who want to go on to higher education can springboard off of their base education.
    This is necessary to break the generational cycle of poverty/ underrepresentation of typical socio-economic groups in our nation today.

    1. Not a bad solution. We’d just have to redirect more tax revenue to higher education. I’m a big fan of community college provided people stick through the two years, and ideally, transfers to a 4-year accredited university.

  12. I don’t know who is kidding who! Black African Americans are 13.6% of the population. As a Black African American female, I graduated from medical school 43 years ago. At that time Black physicians were 4% of doctors in the USA. Now the number is 5.7% . This number includes first generation Black immigrants. The number of descendants of former enslaved is smaller than that percentage. The Civil Rights Movement was to enable descendants of the former enslaved receive equality in opportunities. Examples: There are 3 Black USA senators. Black people comprise 8% of millionaires White 76 %. There are 6 Black CEO of Fortune 500 companies which is slightly over 1% (an all time high). Black Army Generals comprise 6.5 % with only 2 four star Generals. If there was truly any “Affirmative Action”, that that percentage should higher and more representative of the population. There is so much racial disparities that in the USA that maybe 50-60 years more of “Affirmative Action ” opportunities with reflect the population.

    1. “The Civil Rights Movement was to enable descendants of the former enslaved receive equality in opportunities.”

      Agree with this. Which is why it’s disappointing to see some private universities accept wealthy Black students from Africa and the West Indies, instead of Black Americans, especially lower income Black Americans.

      1. Private Universities allow wealthy Black African and West Indies students into their institutions and check ✔ the “Affirmative Action” box

  13. I was admitted to a UC on Affirmative Action in the 90’s. I’m Latina and a 1st generation college graduate. I focused on a major that allowed me to start a career without going to graduate school so I could pay off my loans ASAP. It helped me leap economically and allows me to support my family. My husband is Asian, and he benefited from having college-educated parents, and a far superior public education that me.

    Although my experience attending public school was mixed, we enrolled our son in an bilingual public school where the majority of students receive free or reduced meals, it’s a diverse student population, and his teachers look like him. Do I want Affirmative Action for him—no. But I sincerely hope that it will exist in some form for kids that are economically disadvantaged, in the foster care system, or disabled.

    1. Hi Carmen – Thanks for sharing. Do you think you would not have gotten in if Affirmative Action wasn’t around? How do you know AA is what helped you get in?

      I wonder if affirmative action may knock the confidence out from underrepresented minority students who may wonder whether they could have gotten in based on merit or not. Confidence is a huge part of getting ahead.

      Regarding your son, it’s great to do language immersion. I think it’s best to expect a student from an economically disadvantaged home, who doesn’t have as good grades or test scores, will take your son’s spot at his target college.

      If we can lower our expectations in our children and as parents, we will be less disappointed and plan accordingly. Then it’s all good!

  14. There are unquestionable structural advantages different groups have in this country, at least in aggregate. I see it in my own family. My wife is biracial. When we visit her black family in Alabama, the legacy of slavery is abundantly visible. When you dig into the wealth vs income picture, it is startling and borderline criminal how different the net worth of white families vs black families are (listen to the recent Ezra Klein podcast with economist Derrick Hamilton). That should be addressed in a structural way, with targeted affirmative action and with the implementation of policies such as baby bonds or reparations.

    My wife’s relatives / our relatives down south have suffered the legacy of Jim Crow, red lining, limited access to capital (via bank loans), mediocre or bad education, and generations of stunted aspirations due to structural limitations. It’s a systemic issue. Local and federal policy can and should make a difference in their lives. I believe her relatives there should absolutely benefit from affirmative action. My children, however, who are 1/4 black, and have attending private schools since kindergarten, should not benefit from being able to check the “black” and “caucasian” boxes on their college applications. My son is off to college this fall. His gpa was over 4.0, he is applying from Hawai’i, we have a high net worth… and he wasn’t admitted to Yale early action (despite his white grandfather being an alum). Less than 5% of applicants were admitted, so it’s clearly a crap shoot even for the best students out there. He was admitted to numerous other top 20 liberal arts schools, and is very happy with his options, as are we.

    In sum: affirmative action should lift up those who clearly suffered and continue to suffer the legacy of slavery (or colonial occupation, as is the case of Hawaiians), but should be more nuanced to be sure it’s not benefiting children such as mine (and it’s unclear it did, in my son’s case).

    Related: Your thoughts on baby bonds as a way of leveling net wealth disparities?

  15. Hi

    Great article. I went to Penn State in the 90’s and people always confused it with UPenn. I was able to graduate with little debt and has lead to a very successful career here in SF. I work with a lot of Ivy leaguers and realized early many are no different but had access. If you get rid of legacy admissions I think you would see diversity increase.

  16. I just wanted to comment on the wording: ” Helping certain races who’ve experienced historical injustices is the right thing to do, even if it hurts other races who had nothing to do with these injustices.”

    You don’t hurt or help races, you hurt or help individuals. Groups don’t go to college, individuals do. Groups don’t stay up late at night, people do. I cannot grasp using group level characteristics to make decisions about individuals.

    If there’s to be change, it needs to start in the elementary schools. We need to re-vamp our thinking.

    A friend of mine worked briefly for the Chicago Public School District while she waited to get on the police force. She had no connections nor long term plans (so wasn’t networking to make a career out of it), so they sent her to the crappiest schools in the absolute worst ghetto neighborhoods. Do you know who else was there? The worst of the worst teachers were sent to the poor black schools. CPS has been run by minorities for decades. I don’t think it’s racism per se, but I don’t know what you’d call it. But I do think those kids are just done before they started. Discipline was non-existent, but there were kids there that wanted to learn. So she would just throw out the kids who were out of control so that the kids who wanted to learn could learn.

    I think fixing that is more important if one is concerned about a more equal society.

    1. Just to agree with you and laugh… Schools are Black, people are people. :)

      Still, you make incredibly good points about this problem starts early in a child’s life. Interestingly, there’s been analysis performed where all children have similar aptitude and/or intellect up until the 3rd grade. After that, there’s a major shift. There’s something there. This data is dated, though: 1980-1990s, and perhaps an analysis today would find the data a bit different, say 1st grade every kid shows similar aptitude. I do think the problem is becoming younger…

      Also, I wish I could remember the article, but a new middle or HS teacher saw one group of students performing much lower than Asian kids. What’s that about? he asked. Everyone replied, The other groups are lazy and don’t work. He rejected that and looked more deeply. He found one group– a group with much lower grades, actually studied as hard and in some cases, harder than the Asian group. Why is that not showing up in the grades? he asked. He assessed the Asian kids studied in groups, and that community approach helped raise understanding and grades. He tried it out with that lower performing group, and their grades jumped to a statistically significant level.

      Now, could there be a lurking variable? Yes. Is this causality or correlation? Correlation, likely since regression analysis, blinding, etc was not mentioned in the article. Still, there’s something to how students come to the table, how they study, their parents, their community, etc.

      I do applaud Asian-Americans and all other groups, who do excel academically. Education is the most important thing in life. If you’re educated and curious then you will excel when (proverbially) placed in a dark alley, a gun to your head, and a brick wall in front of you.

  17. Population increases, but coveted college slots remain fixed. That leads to individuals seeking advantages, whatever it is using ghost writers, affirmative action or becoming a recruited athlete. Power, power, power

  18. African and Caribbean immigrants and their children now account for more than 40 percent of the Black enrollment in the Ivy League, so affirmative action isn’t even helping people that it was intended to help.

  19. Having the highest test scores and gpa and going to the best schools don’t mean anything. It comes down to the individual’s drive and determination.
    I had above average scores and gpa and went to average schools, certainly not the top elite schools. Had a successful career and became FI in my mid-40’s.
    I’ve seen booksmart kids go to the best Ivy League schools and ended up having average careers and deep in debt.
    Again top scores and gpa don’t mean anything. Going to the most elite schools don’t mean anything. It’s the individual’s drive and determination that determines their success in life.

  20. Joseph Story

    One thing I notice is that you tend to make your childhood seem like it was bad or less than others. Do you know how many people in the DMV would love to live in a townhome rather than an apartment/condo but can’t afford to? Tons. Also, you are diplomat’s child. Please don’t act like you didn’t gain worldly experience and lessons from living abroad. You tend to discount your childhood experience as average when there are millions of government workers who somehow thrive and have good lives based on their U.S. government salaries.

    1. Absolutely, the international experience has been wonderful, which is why I’ve often written about my time abroad, and how it’s valuable to travel internationally and speak other languages.

      I think if you saw the townhouse that we lived in and the brown eight year old Toyota Camry, you would agree that it is a middle class lifestyle. The government salaries are public to see. But my parents could secretly be rich! But I don’t know.

      What about you? What is your background and how did you grow up? And what are your thoughts on affirmative action? Thanks

      Related post: Spoiled Or Clueless? Trying Working A Minimum Wage Job As An Adult

  21. Hank Spraggins

    It’s always good to cover these topics for awareness, support, and improved equity; however, many of these conversations are flawed because you all don’t know what’s really happening wrt to race based decisions. The prevailing thinking is — “Black people have suffered so, let’s lower the bar and include them in.” Does that really sound like America to you?

    No, it does not. Here’s what normally happens with race informed decision making… “Hey, we are only picking kids from feeder high schools (or feeder companies) (or feeder universities)* and we are getting the same type of person. What if we looked at non-traditional sources for candidates?”

    This ends up with looking for underrepresented minorities… BUT, it’s brown kids who meet the bar! How do I know? Drexel U accepted me into their Engineering program under a diversity initiative. When I found it I was upset and told them “My SAT scores are the same as any other person’s!” The reply, “Yeah, but you’re Black, and that makes all the difference.”

    In other words, “We want you because you’re Black bc that’s popular now, but if it were not popular we could not have cared less about your scores — you would not be accepted!!”
    Did you hear that?! I met the bar, but kids like me were never given a chance until diversity became a thing.

    Any of you all read about the Black young lady with perfect SAT scores and was rejected by 5+ Ivy League schools – it’s in a popular Netflix or streaming series about the “pay to go to your university” scandal, which btw did not have any Black parents who paid to get into UCLA or MIT… It was just non-Black parents.

    Oh, well, I guess we will overlook those data points and continue to flame a division between Asian and Black folks, which in the Bay area is a big error. With Asian hate rising and Black Lives Matter– it makes no sense to divide us, but for some reason… smh. We can do better! We should do better!

    1. Look at more than one data point
    2. Ask hard questions about our country’s history
    3. Assume everyone is meeting the bar and ask if everyone is meeting the bar how could this happen? e.g., this kid never mentions or shares his essay responses, which are a major part of the application process.

    * – in Silicon Valley, this happens a lot!! There is known university bias– “oh, Jill (or Bob or Tyrone) is a VP here and s/he/they went to Carnegie Mellon, so let’s hire more kids from Carnegie…” Some of us in tech have discussed this and we lament that we did not go to Stanford or MIT since they look for people like that … v the same type of person at say, Drexel University.

    1. Hank your logic and evidence is baffling and you contradict yourself:

      1. You say “Look at more than one data point” but you post mentions two single case data points, apparently one about your own experience, and one data point about one person who was rejected.

      2. “Ask hard questions about our country’s history” What are the questions? Why not read the history. There were horrible atrocities committed in this country and pretty much every country in history.

      3. “Assume everyone is meeting the bar”. This is one of the most ridiculous statements I have heard. Universities across the board are dropping academic requirements and standardized tests because of the false belief that standardized tests are unfair. Also colleges are switching to pass/fail grading because of the false belief that grading students is just too stressful for them. Many of our high school students are already lagging and deficient on math and English language. The solution is not to drop the bar. Studying for an exam is important and you can learn from studying! Standardized tests are pretty straightforward tests of math and language. People think it is unfair that some people can afford exam prep courses, so why not just subsidize and have exam prep courses free for those in need? We should not be dropping the bar and it will lead to a dumbing down and less educated society.

      I have sat on admissions committees and seen students moved from the middle or bottom of the rank list all the way to the first top position solely based on the color of their skin. So there is your anecdote…

      1. Hi Andy– thanks for reading my post.

        Certainly, we should review multiple day points. I meant, academics is not the only data point associated with being accepted to college. It includes essays and other factors (or data points). I did not mean my 1 or 2 personal examples were a multipicity of data points. I should clarify that. Thanks!

        I included my own personal example to show how “affirmative action” or “diversity initiatives” actually work: they do not lower the bar; they simply reach out to under-representated minorities. That’s it! The same URMs would not be placed although they have the academics and other factors associated with a good applicant. There’s a really good video from “Eyes on the Prize: Civil Rights Reader” that covers the Alan Bakke UC case where a more qualified candidate was accepted as part of “affirmative action” and Mr. Bakke sued citing reverse discrimination… and the rest is history #scotus


        Your direct experience is sad. You were in a room and unethical things happened and you let it go. That’s on you. However, the impact is very small, and not truly representative of America universities. Why? African-Americans represent 1.2% of college students. Yeah, a total of 18M go, but only 2.38M are Black. I hope this is more like the data you cited for me, but you yourself did not offer. #yes I am being a jerk. :)

        So, your unethical, overly progressive, bleeding heart university moved 1-2 Black kids to the top??! [/b]African-Americans represent a very small percentage, and therefore they really aren’t taking anyone’s spot. [/b] [/doublebold]AND…….. applicants w/ a parent who attends the university has a 46.7% acceptance rate! The highest rate of all groups!!!
        Either children of university employees are “better students” than everyone else… and therefore, should be offended with an Asian-American kid taking their spots… or Asian-Americans should be infuriated at nepotism; if it’s the latter then that’s where the energy should be focused, but I guess everyone is scared of taking on the universities– instead, let’s pick on 1 or 2 Black kids. [/doublebold] This kid had to be the lowest ranking Asian-American because he was not accepted but other Asian-Americans were accepted. This kid had a 4.65 GPA and 1580 SATs, and yet… he’s not the best Asian-American anyway– so, why is he crying and why should we care?

        Again, though, his essays could have been horrible and not shown any leadership abilities. Finally, in California, the UCs have a ceiling per high school. Supposedly, they do this to ensure there’s no bias towards a particular high school, i.e., Millbrae HS may have a ceiling of 10 kids; Burlingame HS may have a ceiling of 5 kids. So, Kid #11 from Millbrae could be better than #1 kid from Burlingame, and #11 kid does not get accepted. That’s something to be upset with or fix, but again… No one is saying anything about this process or nepotism- both of which have a much larger impact.

        Can’t you see- we are picking on the kids or situation we can pick on, and the one where we think it’s a major issue, but really it’s 1.1M or 1.2%– the other 98.8% is unimpacted. I think kids and people who can’t understand stats and data shouldn’t be accepted to elite universities. Maybe, all the Ivy Leagues made the right choice with this kid? Hmmm…

  22. DEI programs as an extension Affirmative Action are in direct violation of multiple federal laws and equal opportunity employment laws:

    DEI programs which selectively promote and hire women over men are in direct violation of Title IX. Title IX is a federal law that was passed in 1972 to ensure that male and female students and employees in educational settings are treated equally and fairly. It protects against discrimination based on sex. The preamble to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 states that: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

    DEI programs which selectively promote and hire ethnic minorities are in direct violation of Title VII. Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, as amended, protects employees and job applicants from employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin. Title VII protection covers the full spectrum of employment decisions, including recruitment, selections, terminations, and other decisions concerning terms and conditions of employment.

    An Equal Opportunity Employer is an organization that agrees not to discriminate against any employee or job applicant because of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, physical or mental disability, or age. In other words, an Equal Employment Opportunity is given to everyone when they’re considered for various employment decisions and receive fair, unbiased treatment in the workplace.

    DEI programs are for the most part discriminatory programs and thus illegal. Happy to hear any arguments against this, but the laws are very clear. There cannot be a double standard or exception to the law just for one race over another or one gender over another.

  23. I went to Harvard, and the majority of my black classmates were from wealthy African families. It is a failure of elite private universities to not admit more American underrepresented minorities.

    It’s so obvious what universities are doing, I’m surprised not more people have called these universities out for their gamesmanship.

  24. Dear Financial Samurai:

    As a successful internet entrepreneur, especially in the financial commentary area, you should ask the following. Why are the competitive colleges so? What is the nature of the gap between the colleges (i.e. highest ranked Ivies and the mediocre ranked states)? Why does it exist and how do you ameliorate that? The socialist/communist solution is what you and everyone else advises, because it is intellectually lazy and presents a way to exert social power by elites through government action. The free market economist in you should have said, how do we make all colleges are competitive, more or less equally? That is true for markets where a market leader may exert a marginal utility price, but competition makes sure that the price drifts to the mean and varies around a narrow band. See for example Tesla as a first mover, but its advantage getting reduced by competitors. To wit, the market should sort itself that the vast majority of students are well served by the median college with its tuition.

    1. Thanks for the comment.

      I didn’t realize I came across as advising the socialist/communist solution to getting ahead. Seems like that would be a tough way to go in a capitalistic country. If you could point to where I write this that would be helpful.

      Do you have any thoughts, suggestions, and solutions to affirmative action in college admissions to make opportunities more accessible to all?

      I’d like to hear an intellectually rigorous solution. Something about your background would be helpful as well. Thanks!

  25. School affirmative action is just another form of class warfare. Rich families will have their yachts and social clubs and their elite schools and they will have access to jobs at white shoe law firms and finance. Becoming upset about it is akin to being mad that you weren’t born a billionaire.

    If going to Yale, for instance, is a young person’s dream, then give it a shot. But realize that the degree is about status seeking, not practicality, and be willing to play the game with sharp elbows and an aggressive attitude to win, not cry about being underrepresented. And, of course, name drop your school at every opportunity into your daily conversations.

  26. I’m against affirmative action when it comes to college. I came from dysfunctional family, but I was told by my grand parents early on to work for things I want. Nothing is free. If you really want something figure out how to get it and do it. I ended up going to a community college and found a career I liked that was in demand and paid well. I got good grades, transfer credits, scholarships, grants and loans. I ended up at a very demanding 4 year university, which I had graduated from, and I have a high good paying engineering career as a result.

    I had some friends who went to college by way of the military. One became pharmacist, one a nuclear engineer, and another a doctor.

    What they had all in common was self motivation, enough emotional intelligence to be disciplined, and work through what they had to do to make it happen. They went into the military, they got their college education, they had completed their required service time, they got benefits, they got experience and careers. This got them multiple job offers when they finally got out of the military. Also, no college loan debts thanks to the military.

    There are about 70% college grads who are doing something different from their major field of studies. Having a college degree does not guarantee a job at the end. Therefore, wisely choose what your major is because it can cause you a lot of stress, time, money and massive debt.

    If you want something really bad, be ready to work for it and pay for it. You have to make sacrifices and time for college. Also, be willing to ask for help from friends and professors if you don’t know something. The most important things to learn from school is learn how to learn and research.

    1. Hard not to agree with working hard and being self-motivated.

      Perhaps what is missing is opportunity? There are plenty of hard-working people who aren’t given a chance to ascend. People in power tend to take care of more people like themselves.

      Hence, the spoils tend to go to the same group of already wealthy and connected people. Spreading the opportunity and the wealth seems to be a good thing versus massive hoarding of wealth by an elite few.

      1. You have to be humble and willing to take jobs whose locations and hours may not be the greatests in the beginning. Willing to self-learn and build up your skills along the way.

        You have to improve your emotional intelligence and not just your academic skills to make it.

        To me the color or ethnicity of person does not matter. What matters is they can do the work or not, and are they good people. They are reviewed based on their merits and ability to work with others who maybe from different business units or the same business group.

        As for racism, this is something that will always exist, and this is global.
        You have Asians who don’t like other Asians for various reasons. This goes the same
        for Whites, Indians, Latins, Blacks, etc. Some factors why this is so can be found from sociology, culture, religion, family, etc. If we were one race, you would have some type of racism related to social status, financial status, mannerisms, slight different color skin tones, intelligence levels, etc.

        Equal opportunities does not equal equitable outcomes. You will always have somebody you are better/smarter than, and somebody is better/smarter than you, which is the real world. Some people have work at it more than others to get ahead.

        If you look at sports, there is no merit here, just systems training and resultant outcomes. However, some people have better genetics than others than can make a difference. The majority have to work at this to be better.

  27. Affirmative action is not a quota system. Affirmative action does not force nor even allow institutions to admit unqualified applicants.

    The vast majority of institutions do not rank applicants against each other and pick the top ranked applicants until their rolls are filled. Such a ranking could not be based on any objective measure, as such a measure would be attempting be distinguish between an applicant’s past performance and future potential. Such a ranking would inherently be biased against applicants who grew up poor, went to an under performing school, spoke English as a second language, or where subject to institutional racism.

    When an institution has 200% applicants for it’s rolls, it chooses the 100% it needs based on a wide variety of criteria, of which affirmative action is one. Besides, who’s so say a student enrolled under affirmative action took your child’s spot?

    As recently as this year, the US Supreme Court upheld that affirmative action can and should exist in US law.

  28. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in the Fall of 2020; 15.9 million undergraduate students enrolled in college. Of that 15.9 million, 1.1 million were African American. That’s roughly 6.91 percentage of incoming freshmen.
    And you’re telling me that 1million minority AA students (because, come on, that’s the group everyone is really complaining about, right?) is keeping the rest of the country from attending college? Please!

    1. Good stats to put into perspective. Thanks!

      As I wrote in my post towards the end, I don’t think affirmative action negatively or positively affects as many people as we think.

      The ruckus is generally loudest in the top 25-50 private schools and there are over 3,000 colleges in the country.

      1. I totally agree with your premise – if there are 3000 colleges in the USA, then there is plenty of opportunity for everyone, who wants it, to get a college education. You do NOT have to attend a top 25-50 private school to become upper middle class or affluent.

  29. How do you feel about “Asian” as a category? I worry it contains some incredibly distinct ethnicities including some very disadvantaged ones – doubly disadvantaged by inclusion in this broad stroke. If diversity is a goal, why put so much of the world in the same bucket?

    1. It is a big category with many different types of Asians. I could drill down and say Hawaiian-Taiwanese-American as well.

      Some Asians, like Indians, are doing far better than other Asians, in terms of education and wealth in America. So it is good to distinguish, and thanks for the reminder.

      I did highlight the income and wealth discrepancy among Asians in this post.

  30. I don’t think we’d be having this conversation if elementary schools had a decent learning standard.

  31. Fille Frugale

    Former academic here, who worked closely with admissions at a top STEM public institution in the southeast for years. First off, kudos for writing a balanced piece on this complicated topic.

    One thing I don’t see discussed anywhere, is the FACT that at ALL top 20 universities (public and private), there are so many excellent Asian and Caucasian applicants that the entire school could be filled with just Asians or just Caucasians if we only went by SATs or ACTs or high school GPA alone (and/or any other objective measures of meritocracy).

    For example, Berkeley could EASILY have its entire student body just be Asian American men, many times over. Is that what you want for your kid, for any kid? Isn’t the point of education that students should be confronted with a diversity of life experiences, interests, etc?

    So the basic question remains, how do we achieve that without any kind of « fluid » (aka not purely objective) admissions criteria? And of course, as soon as it’s not purely an objective, mathematical criteria, someone will deem the results unfair.

    I’m no fan of affirmative action, but the fact is, life ain’t fair, and the sooner students (and parents) realize it, the better off everyone will be.

    1. “Berkeley could EASILY have its entire student body just be Asian American men, many times over. Is that what you want for your kid, for any kid? Isn’t the point of education that students should be confronted with a diversity of life experiences, interests, etc?”

      Probably not, as that student body makeup wouldn’t be reflective of American society’s makeup. It’s an interesting situation though because if you check out Tokyo University in Japan, you’ll see predominantly Japanese students from Japanese ethnicity. The same thing if you go to Norway, you’ll see predominantly Norwegian students fro Norwegian ethnicity.

      There are plenty of colleges in America. Yet, we obsess over the top 25-50.

    2. What is it that Berkeley sells compared to Pomona state? Why not make Pomona and Irvine equally competitive as Berkeley so that anyone who wants to go to a particular program, say law, can go to it, distinguish themselves in the curriculum and go out into the world to make their impact? What is so special about Berkeley that we need to ration its entries in true socialist style?

  32. This is such a complex topic. I’m a minority and had to fight to get a lot of things in my life. I’m also a big proponent of merit yet I also understand that not everyone has the same opportunities and resources growing up.

    I like your suggestion of focusing on helping those with disabilities and low-income families.

    I would also like to see some schools, not all b/c that just isn’t feasible, have completely blind admissions. This is also quite difficult to execute in reality. But my reasoning comes from the music world where blind auditions are the norm.

    What are blind auditions? Musicians play to judges who sit behind a curtain and only the judges are allowed to speak. Thus, the judges can’t use any bias of the musicians (gender, age, race, language, physical appearance) to choose the best musicians. They only use their ears to determine the most skilled and best prepared musicians.

    Of course there are still people who are against this style of auditioning, but to me it makes so much sense. I would like to see some college admissions where the applicants’ entire identity is hidden and the admissions team can only make their selections based on the applicants’ grades, extra curriculars, written essays, and test scores.

    1. Good insight! That would make sense, blind music auditions for music schools to test 100% based on the quality of the music a student plays. Similar to the TV show The Voice. Why does what someone looks like matter when playing the piano or violin?

      Alas, I recently spoke to a classical musician and he says there is politics involved in classical music as well. Given there is an overrepresentation of Asian classic musicians, conductors/symphonies/organizations want to showcase different races. And to do so, they will pay different races more, despite potentially not sounding as good.


  33. Public Universities should not be allowed to consider ethnicity.

    Private Universities should be able to do what they please.

    1. That was one of my points towards the end. Most public universities, including the University of California, don’t use affirmative action when deciding on who gets in, at least not overtly.

      I also agree that private universities should be able to do whatever they want, provided they don’t take government funding.

      College applicants need to recognize this reality. Just as they have a choice on where to apply, private colleges have a choice on who to reject.

      However, one thing that’s really starting to piss California taxpayers and property taxpayers off, is not being able to get their children into a UC system school. Imagine paying property taxes for 20 years and not being able to get your kid into UC Santa Barbara for example.

      1. No one is entitled, and if the kid is a stud they’ll get in to a UC; in fact virtually every rejected applicant in the recent years has been offered admission to UC Merced, so your kids stand a high likelihood of getting in to a UC. I know 2 friend’s kids who got in off the waitlist to UCSB. One of them was incredulous the kid got waitlisted at UCSB and rejected from Cal/USC/UCLA/Georgetown with a sterling record from a fancy private school in Orange County. The reality is those schools have a quota for each area school/district and the kid would have been much more likely to have gotten admitted to one or more of the schools that rejected him if he had gone to one of the local high performing public schools he’s districted into and excelled there, especially in an era of affirmative action. Our son’s public high school is so well regarded by colleges he got into an upper tier B10 school with grades that got him rejected from the UCs but with pretty good test scores. Less AA in B10 land as those states are mostly very white.

        A good private college counselor is worth every penny. I have a local referral if anyone is interested.

        1. B10 school? Big 10 school like The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Indiana University, University of Iowa, University of Michigan, Michigan State, University of Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, and University of Wisconsin-Madison?

          If so, some good schools. But does it not frustrate you that your son couldn’t get into a University of California school and now has to pay out-of-state tuition or private tuition?

          1. Well, he could have gone to UC Merced but he wasn’t too fired up on that. Despite that and to your point I was a little annoyed and frustrated, however this school has a top 30 undergrad CS dept and an absolutely stunning campus, very collegiate, which blew us away when went to drop him off for freshman year. My OOS tuition is 2.5x UC tuition but housing is much much cheaper – single room in a 2 BR luxury apt for $900/mo. The campus is also incredible, and the school seems to be very well resourced, much more so than the average UC. I’m paying $10-15K more than a UC but much less than USC (my alma mater) would have set me back. And he loves it there.

  34. Are minorities today as disadvantaged as 100 years ago? 50 years ago? How long will we need to keep helping minorities to “level the field?” 50?100 years? In sports, whites and Asians are underrepresented. Should these groups be helped to allow them to take part in the amazing money these athletes are paid?

    1. You tell me. Personally, I’d love to join the NBA and make the $3 million NBA veteran minimum and not have to play. I can provide strategic analysis Udonis Haslem for the Heat.

      1. Why isn’t there affirmative action for Asians in the NBA, NFL.

        Just because they can’t jump as high generally, shouldn’t we be giving them som help. After all the at 5% of the population, so they better account for at least 5% of these leagues, right?

  35. Getting rid of affirmative action will widen inequity. You can see this from California’s data. Black and Hispanic students are under-represented in California’s public universities. The UC system tried to use income, neighborhood, and other data to close the gap, but it didn’t work.
    Asian American students can go to less prestigious universities and still do well in life. Affirmative action doesn’t hurt them that much. I just read Paul Tough’s The Years That Matter Most. It’s pretty good. A bit too long, but still worth a read.

    If you want to widen inequity, then getting rid of affirmative action will do it.

    1. I read his book too, and will have him on the FS podcast.

      The thing is, there are literally thousands of colleges in America that we can all go to. Sure, some are better than others. But for the most part, I don’t think affirmative action makes a big difference among schools outside of the top 50.

      What are your expectations of your son going to college and the rank of the college?

    2. Joe,

      So sick of hearing this. You are so biased you aren’t even reading or looking at the actual numbers.

      According to 2020 census, no race or ethnic group constitutes a majority of California’s population: 39% of Californians are Latino, 35% are white, 15% are Asian American or Pacific Islander, 5% are Black, 4% are multiracial, and fewer than 1% are Native American or Alaska Natives.

      Here is breakdown of the entire UC systems undergraduate class by ethnicity in 2021: “Admission of California freshmen reached an all-time high with 84,223 students. 36,462 of them or 43%, are students from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups. Latinos were the largest group admitted for the second year in a row, making up 37%. Asian Americans made up 34%, white students 20% and Black students 5%. The rest were American Indians, Pacific Islanders or those who declined to state their race or ethnicity, officials said.”

      SO BLACK STUDENTS ARE REPRESENTED IN THE UC SYSTEM UNDERGRADS IN THE EXACT SAME PERCENTAGE AS THEY ARE IN THE CALIFORNIA POPULATION! 5% = 5%. Can you see that?? Hispanic students are also the fastest rising group and are almost equal.

      Its absolutely insane what DEI rhetoric puts into people’s heads. The processes the UC system have put into place DID WORK and ARE WORKING! And importantly affirmative action has been banned in California since 1996, and was also rejected AGAIN by 60% of voters in 2020 when proposition 16 was rejected. So affirmative action has not been officially used in the UC system for the last 27 years!!

      Your comments on Asian Americans are frankly racist. They can go to less prestigious universities and “still do well”? Affirmative action doesn’t hurt them “that much”?? I am not asian, but your comments are just as racist as any other racist trope or stereotype.

      You seriously need a reality check.

      1. Latinos are younger. In 2019, they made up 59% of high school graduating class in CA and only 27% of the freshman enrollment. You can’t just look at the total percentage of the population. Look at the relevant data.
        I haven’t seen the data from 2021. It makes sense that Latinos is the largest ethnic group admitted. I’m assuming they still make up about 60% of the high school graduating class. That gap is big.

        I’m an Asian American and I went to a less prestigious university. I’m doing quite well and all my friends are doing quite well.

  36. I believe the following article presents what is likely the best argument against affirmative action:

    Sam, please let me know your thoughts.

    1. I’d actually love to hear your thoughts. It’s good to share other people’s viewpoints. However, it’s more fun and a greater challenge to share and argue our own. Thanks.

    2. But in what world are the A students the ones who hire? In the real world, it’s usually the C students that hire. Many issues with this article.

  37. Aaah, I have to comment. I used to be pro affirmative thinking, stupidly thinking that the smart people would get in regardless, while encouraging minorities and women. After watching the test scores tank, athletes who can barely put a sentence together get a free ride and Asians, including Indian Americans, being denied a place in colleges, my opinion has changed. You could chalk it up to a grumpy old woman, my kids still believe in affirmative action as they believe that many ethnicities are till being held back.

    1. I’m amazed at how liberal younger ABCDs are. Hopefully Vivek Ramaswamy will influence them to open their eyes.

      1. People who are deserving will be disparaged against and have to change their life’s course. People who are undeserving will receive incredible breaks and take the place of the deserving. That’s life get used to it. God dictates all. I have no idea what having black, brown, white, yellow, or blue-green skin has to do with any human’s ability to apply themselves. Is the government telling blacks they are less capable human beings? If it’s more profitable to lobby society to take away what someone else made, then people of this race or that race will spend their time lobbying for redistribution, and that time spent will produce zero value – All peoples lose when we covet our neighbor’s things and live in a pit of envy and entitlement. It is providence that you are where you are right now, at the station of life you are at. It is perfect and man can’t ever dream of improving upon what the creator hath made.

    2. Socioeconomic status has to be considered first and foremost. But also, race… More opportunity naturally opens up in life when you are poor but look like the like the people who do the hiring. I’m extremely concerned about the affirmative action given to rich minorities and legacy students. I saw former high school valedictorians struggle in college because they went to inner city schools. They had to do double work to try to keep up AND learn what they had not been previously taught. I also saw students that went to 40K private colleges who said college was super easy because they had received such good high school educations. There is no way you can’t consider student background in admissions. The disparity is way too large in this country.

      1. Im just curious why everything these days has too be about race? Race is blamed on everything! Im a White person. Irish decent. Does it make a difference on the job application that im White or Irish? No it doesn’t don’t. If you want something go out and get it and stop blaming race for all your problems. I have black friends and Hispanic friends. They are all successful and respected people. They never blame race for anything. My black friend joined the military right out of high school and graduateed college for free. Did race play a role in that? Heck no. Teach your kids that every one is equal and we all have too work for what we want in this crazy world.

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