Two school admissions policies made news last week for opposite reasons — Harvard University, because it is accused of admitting too few Asian-American students, and New York’s most selective public schools, because the city’s mayor thinks it is admitting too many.
Taken together, they illustrate the dilemma faced by the gatekeepers to the most desirable educational opportunities, continually tweaking their formulas and always accused of discriminating against one group or another. As admissions at the nation’s most competitive schools become evermore competitive — Harvard admitted 4.59 percent of applicants this year, while the acceptance rate at New York’s Stuyvesant High School has been estimated at 17 percent — the controversies are a reminder that every change in the admissions equation that increases the chances of members of one group inevitably disadvantage others.
Both situations also reflect the fact that Asian-American students tend to excel academically, particularly on standardized achievement tests.
The Harvard news came late last week, in the form of documents filed in an ongoing affirmative action lawsuit contending that the nation’s most prestigious university discriminates against Asian-American applicants. The suit, which is expected to eventually make its way to the Supreme Court, was filed in Boston by Students for Fair Admissions, a group led by Edward Blum, who has also brought several anti-affirmative action cases in recent years. He participated in a suit seeking to overturn admission policies at the University of Texas that he said discriminated in favor of African-American candidates. In 2016 the Supreme Court let the Texas policy stand. In a series of cases the Court has held that while race can be a factor in college admissions it cannot be the only factor. READ MORE