College Admissions Mixed Bag For Blacks

While the debate continues over affirmative action’s relevance on college campuses, some top institutions across the country are fighting dwindling numbers in black student representation.
Following the controversial Supreme Court decision regarding the University of Michigan’s affirmative action policy, the school experienced a backlash in relation to the number of African American applicants and enrollees. The court decided in June 2003 that the school could continue with its affirmative action practices, albeit modified, after white applicants filed lawsuits challenging the use of race in the admissions process.

The university’s overall applications during the 2003–2004 school year dropped about 18%, with the number of African American freshmen applicants and enrollees falling 28% and nearly 15%, respectively, reveals university spokeswoman Julie Peterson.

“It seems we have to remind students and families that Michigan won the affirmative action lawsuits,” Peterson adds.

While the decision didn’t affect the University of California at Berkeley — California’s Proposition 209 prohibits the use of affirmative action — African American freshmen enrollment there dropped 27.5%, from 149 in 2003 to 108 in 2004, the lowest number over the past six years.

“It’s a mixed bag in the sense that while some institutions are seeing declining applications, there are others that are actually seeing an increase in applications,” says William B. Harvey, vice president and director of the Center for Advancement of Racial and Ethnic Equity at the American Council on Education.

Harvey points to the University of Virginia and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as schools with high admission standards that saw an increase in African American student admissions. (See “50 Best Colleges for African Americans,” October 2004, in the archives.)