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Monday, October 8, 2012 - 9:36am

Should Colleges Consider Race?

On Wednesday the US Supreme Court will consider whether to ban colleges from using race as a qualifying factor in admission decisions. Two of Georgia’s research universities have different takes on the debate.

A rejected applicant, who is white, is suing the University of Texas over it’s admissions policy that takes race into account. Georgia Tech also has that policy.

Rick Clark, director of undergraduate admission, says Georgia Tech has a ‘race-conscious’ admissions policy.
He says “You can use gender, ethnicity, geography, legacy. All the various factors, while not quotas, can be understood in order to make admission decisions.”

He says “ We’re among the top producers of African-American, Hispanic and female engineers. Clearly that’s a stated goal of the U.S. government and a dire need for our culture and our society.”

He says Tech aggressively recruits minorities and since the current policy was put in place 15 years ago, they have seen the number of Hispanics and women shoot up dramatically.

The University of Georgia went a step further to race-neutral admissions ten years ago which doesn’t use race as a factor. Nancy McDuff is associate vice president of admissions.

“The university and the freshman class has increased by about 16 percent. But African-Americans have increased by about 67 percent. And Hispanics have increased by over 200 percent.” she says.

But she admits that initially they saw diversity drop on campus.“It’s not something you see overnight. Education didn’t get into the situation we are overnight. We don’t get out of it overnight. We have to look at long-term strategies.”

McDuff says UGA recruiters go to middle schools to talk to students about what it takes to succeed academically.

The progressive think-tank Century Foundation found that getting rid of legacy preferences that mostly benefit whites, and aggressive outreach has allowed most schools with race-neutral admissions to achieve diversity.

Principal researcher Richard Kahlenberg says a bigger deterrent to higher education is economic class. He'd like to see universities focus on that, rather than on race to ensure a diverse campus.