July 15, 2015

Race-Based Admissions Bans On Medical Schools

Affirmative Action is still a highly debatable, controversial issue in medical school admissions. In institutions of higher education, affirmative action refers to admission policies that provide equal access to education for those groups that have been historically excluded or underrepresented, including women and minorities. Since the Supreme Court in the Fisher v. University of Texas case voided the lower appellate court’s ruling in favor of the University and remanded the case, there has been an even greater debate about the best practices in admissions.

Eight states have banned medical schools from considering race in admissions, which leads those schools to try other ways to recruit a diverse student body without explicitly asking for race. Schools are increasing their outreach in minority communities to try and reach more diverse applicants. Many schools look at applicants with other socio-econmic factors, like those who have overcome adversity, shown leadership, and displayed a variety of different activities. Others have been giving preference to working-class students or those whose parents did not attend college.

Since race-based admissions bans have passed, there has been noticeable changes in the amount of colored students attending college in states without affirmative action. Before the bans passed, approximately 18% of students were of color, and now after the bans, approximately 15% of students in states with bans are of color. In the example below from the NY Times, Hispanic freshman students at Berkeley have dropped significantly after approving the statewide ban on affirmative action.

Affirmative Action at Berkeley

Admissions offices are forced to think outside of the box to be able to sustain a diverse class.  At the University of Texas at Austin, they have enforced the Top 10 Percent plan, which allows three-quarters of the incoming class to be automatically admitted based on the students’ position in their high school class. The remaining students of the class are admitted after review of academic achievement and other factors.

What is your school proactively doing to maintain a diverse incoming class?

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