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Admission Policies Not Leading to More Diversity, Report Says

Universities that use guaranteed acceptance instead of affirmative action do not see an increase in minority enrollment.

November 20, 2002|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Policies in California, Texas and Florida that guarantee admission to public universities for top high school graduates do not make campuses more diverse, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights said Tuesday in a draft report.

Minority students in those three states are faring worse or no better than they were under affirmative action programs, according to the report.

"If percentage plans grow in popularity, it is inevitable that the number of minority students attending the most prestigious public universities will decrease," commission Chairwoman Mary Frances Berry said.

The percentage plans guarantee admission to the top 4% of graduates at California high schools, the top 10% in Texas and the top 20% in Florida.

In Texas, the report showed fewer blacks and Latinos were admitted and enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin in 2001 than in 1996, before a federal court outlawed affirmative action in admissions at public universities.

In California, the same was true in graduate law and medical admissions, the report said. The state voted to end race-based admissions in 1996, although the ban did not take effect until the 1998-99 school year.

Florida's state university system showed an increase in black and Latino students since the advent of Gov. Jeb Bush's program to end affirmative action in 2000. But at the University of Florida, the most selective state institution, their numbers dropped.

In September, Bush's office released figures showing that the number of minority students enrolling for the first time at state universities rose in the current school year, but not as quickly as the overall growth in incoming students.

That means that minority enrollment dropped almost half a percentage point compared to last year's incoming class, despite the overall increase.

Bush maintained that the numbers show that his plan is helping increase minority enrollment. "What I said was there would be more African American and Hispanic students attending our university system," he said in September. "Promise made, promise kept."

University of California spokesman Hanan Eisenman said the percentage of minority enrollment has increased for four straight years and now exceeds what it was before the policy barring race as a factor in admissions went into effect. California and the civil rights commission used different base years in comparing affirmative action admissions to those under percentage plans.

"There was an initial drop, but since then we've been rebounding," Eisenman said.

The California university system said that minority enrollment at the medical and law schools is up over last year, but still is lower than before Proposition 209, which outlawed affirmative action.

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