How Workable are Class-Based and Race-Neutral Alternatives at Leading American Universities?
64 UCLA Law Review Discourse 100 (2016)
35 Pages Posted: 9 Sep 2016
Date Written: June 15, 2016
This Essay reviews and synthesizes contemporary social science research relevant to the constitutional question, in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin and more broadly, of whether consideration of socioeconomic status and percent plan admissions based on high school rank represent viable race-neutral alternatives to race-based affirmative action programs. The strong weight of the evidence discussed herein, including simulation studies on a national level and studies of particular states and university systems, shows that socioeconomic status and percent plan admissions are not effective alternatives to race-conscious measures with respect to undergraduate diversity at America’s selective private and public colleges and universities. In addition, socioeconomic-based approaches are very costly due to the combination of increasing financial aid offerings and foregoing tuition revenues, which implicates the U.S. Supreme Court’s language about “tolerable administrative expense” being a factor to weigh in the analysis of race-neutral alternatives. The author concludes by noting that too often a false choice is presented between race-conscious measures and class-based approaches to diversity. In the real world, however, it is the institutions that holistically consider race as a plus factor that are more likely to exhibit a commitment to consider socioeconomic disadvantage in admissions.
Keywords: Affirmative Action, Race-Neutral Alternatives, Socioeconomic Status, Percent Plan, Fisher, University of Texas at Austin, Selective Universities, Financial Aid, Cost, Supreme Court, Social Science, Diversity, Undergraduate, Tuition, Wealth
JEL Classification: I21, I22, I23, I24, I26, I28
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation