A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Mixed race students confront college admission dilemmas

Wow. As if college admissions decisions weren't difficult enough as it is:
At the beginning of the college application season last fall, Natasha Scott, a high school senior of mixed racial heritage in Beltsville, Md., vented about a personal dilemma on College Confidential, the go-to electronic bulletin board for anonymous conversation about admissions.

“I just realized that my race is something I have to think about,” she wrote, describing herself as having an Asian mother and a black father. “It pains me to say this, but putting down black might help my admissions chances and putting down Asian might hurt it.”

“My mother urges me to put down black to use AA” — African-American — “to get in to the colleges I’m applying to,” added Ms. Scott, who identified herself on the site as Clearbrooke. “I sort of want to do this but I’m wondering if this is morally right.”

Within minutes, a commenter had responded, “You’re black. You should own it.” Someone else agreed, “Put black!!!!!!!! Listen to your mom.”

No one advised marking Asian alone. But one commenter weighed in with advice that could just as well have come from any college across the country: “You can put both. You can put one. You’re not dishonest either way. Just put how you feel.”

Until this year, questions about race on most college applications were much simpler. A student who was white with a distant American Indian ancestor , for instance, would most likely have identified himself as white.

But students can now choose from a menu of new boxes of racial and ethnic categories — because the Department of Education started requiring universities this past school year to comply with a broad federal edict to collect more information about race and ethnicity. The change has made it easier for students to claim a multiracial identity — highlighting those parts of their backgrounds they might want to bring to the fore and disregarding others, as Ms. Scott considered doing with her Asian heritage.

So the number of applicants who identify themselves as multiracial has mushroomed, adding another layer of anxiety, soul- (and family-tree-) searching and even gamesmanship to the process.

The new options have forced colleges to confront thorny questions, including how to account for various racial mixes in seeking diversity on campus. Is a student applying as black and Latino more desirable in terms of diversity than someone who is white and black? Or white and Vietnamese? Should the ethnicities of one’s distant relatives be considered fair game, or just parents? And what should be done about students who skip the race question altogether — a sizable number of whom, some studies have shown, are white, and do so either in protest or out of fear that identifying as merely white could hurt rather than help their chances in this new environment?

Some scholars worry that the growth in multiracial applicants could further erode the original intent of affirmative action, which is to help disadvantaged minorities. For example, families with one black parent and one white parent are on average more affluent than families with two black parents. When choosing between two such applicants, some universities might lean toward the multiracial student because he will need less financial aid while still counting toward affirmative-action goals.

Read the whole thing.

The effect of the huge increase in multi-ethnicity students reaching their college admissions years is another thing I never really thought about from this perspective, although I did have a Nordic god of a step-cousin go to school as a Native American for free. But what about those whose ethnicity is Asian and African-American, as with the student in this article? Or how about a politician with a white mother and an African father who identifies (and is identified by others) as African-American?

And should it really even matter in college admissions?

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At 6/22/11, 8:42 PM, OpenID kherbert said...

If the purpose of Affirmative Action is to help the disadvantaged, how about focusing on those from the lower soci/eco levels.

At 6/25/11, 8:16 PM, Blogger Polski3 said...

should it matter in college admissions? In an ideal world, NO. But it does. Out here in Califonria, Many Asian students who are US Citizens tend to be 'last to be admitted," and I hear that foreign Asian students, who pay higher tutition, are more easily admitted. Highly qualified Asian (citizens) students are routinely passed over in California's Public Universities in favor of less academically qualified "Black" and "Hispanic" students.

My son's who have a "hispanic" great grandmother, are, according the US Government's definition of hispanic, are going to be using hispanic on their college applications. BTW, "Okie" is NOT considered a minority of any status to help gain affirmative action bennies for college admissions.....:-(

At 6/29/11, 11:04 AM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

That's too bad about the Okie thing. We certainly have been an oppressed minority, although we are a proud people!


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