by Rahim Kurwa
Second Year PhD Student, Sociology
University apologists are quick to blame our lack of racial diversity on racial inequalities in the K-12 system. While that system is indeed seriously flawed, the data clearly show that UCLA actively worsens these racial inequalities through its admissions policies.
In 2010, 48,576 students applied to UCLA. Of these, 2,693 were black and 13,173 were white. Essentially all of these students are qualified to be admitted to the University of California, as verifying that you have passed the A-G requirements is part of the application process.
Of the 2,693 Black applicants to UCLA, 382 were admitted, a 14% admissions rate. 209 accepted their offer, for a 54.7% enrollment rate.
Of the 13,173 white applicants to UCLA, 3,286 were admitted, a 24.9% admissions rate. 1,524 accepted their offer, for a 31% enrollment rate.
To try to sort through 48,576 applications, UCLA understandably uses additional criteria for admissions that go above and beyond the UC-wide standards. However, those criteria serve to produce admissions rates that are unequal by race, among students who have qualified for admission to the University of California (and for whom the K-12 system has succeeded).
If Black applicants to UCLA were admitted at the 25% rate that is the rough average for all other groups applying to the university, we would see the following occur:
25% of 2,693 = 673 admitted students. Apply the 54.7% enrollment rate and we get 368 black freshmen. This would be roughly 150 more than our current reality, and about 600 additional Black students per every 4 year cycle. This would represent 7.4% of the incoming freshmen class, rather than our current 4.2% rate of representation for Black freshmen.
What criteria has UCLA chosen that fall so harshly on Black students? Extra weight given to SAT and AP scores are the most likely answer. Both are measures of privilege: financial, academic, residential, and ultimately racial privilege. We know that paying for SAT preparation improves students outcomes, and we know that AP classes are not offered at the same rate across California’s schools. Rather there are some schools with lower resources and fewer AP classes, and other schools with many resources and many AP classes, and these schools are distributed unevenly along the state’s racial residential lines. It is also important to note that the UC’s own data show that SAT scores predict little about a student’s performance in the university (only 13% of total GPA variance), meaning that we are using criteria that are both racially unequal and relatively arbitrary.
So when people shrug their shoulders at the lack of underrepresented minorities on UCLA’s campus, you should remember that its not entirely the K-12 system’s fault. Our university is actively making this problem worse through its admissions policies. Abandoning useless but racially biased admissions criteria will stop the bleeding, but ultimately without the repeal of Prop 209 (which banned affirmative action), we are not likely to return to the racial diversity our university enjoyed prior to 1996.
Looking beyond UCLA we can see that this pattern is similar at UC Berkeley, but not as strong at other UCs. The distribution of under-represented minorities in the UC system is unbalanced across its schools, lower at “elite” UCs, and higher at the less prestigious campuses. When looking at the patterns of spending at these campuses, it becomes evident that the UC’s patterns of racial inequality also fit its patterns of spending inequality, as the campuses with the most under-represented minorities see a lower level of spending per student than the campuses with lower than average rates of under-represented minorities.
For more on the intersection of race and spending at the UCs, see Chris Newfield’s essay at Remaking the University.
For more resources on the crisis in Black admissions at UCLA, see the Bunche Center’s various research reports.
48576 total applied
54.7% enroll rate
14% admit rate
48576 total applied
31% enroll rate
24.9% admit rate
25.3% total UCLA rate