A Proposal to Fix Affirmative Action

In the early 20th Century top universities tried merit as an admission requirement. They got more than they wanted (i.e. too many Jews, too little old money). Progressive top universities remedied that with “Jewish quotas.” Instead of just tests and transcripts, they “measured character & looked at the whole person.” Plainly said, rich kids could cheat. Times have changed. An Asian quota replaced the Jewish quota. Today’s affirmative action still lets rich kids cheat, but now with an added layer or racism.

The public doesn’t like affirmative action. When they get a chance to vote on it, they usually vote against it, most recently in Michigan. Affirmative action leads to lots of a lot of injustice but to be practical we need some way of leveling the playing field.

Here is my radical proposal and based on common sense premises and a couple of conclusions. First the premises.

- Qualified applicants outnumber places at top universities. However, in the university system as a whole there is a place for everyone.

- No admission system will be perfect, but given the applicant pool for top universities, they are much more likely to exclude qualified applicants than admit bad ones.

- The current application process produces a lot of anxiety among young people. It is an opaque process and even top students are not confident about getting their first choices.

- There is a very significant level or randomness in the selection process, but universities try to hide that.

- The application process cost applicants, parents and universities a lot of time and money.

- Universities want diversity. They also claim to want diversity of opinions, although that is less manifest.

- We have a system with good intentions, but a lot of randomness and some corruption.

My Solution

My solution decreases potential for corruption while being less expensive and less anxiety inducing. We already have randomness. We need to recognize and use it. A university should determine a minimum level of competence required to achieve academically. To determine this, you could just take some combination of SAT scores and HS grades. Since this would be a threshold requirement, a lot of people would make the cut. Then use a random number generator to decide the outcomes. Diversity is enhanced. Presumably at the minimum level of competence, you would have a fair ethnic and regional distribution. The rules of random chance would ensure their acceptance in proportion to the qualified population.

We should get rid of all current affirmative action including legacy admissions.

With all the affirmative action bureaucracies making the big bucks gumming up the system and feeling self righteous about it at the same time, I do not suppose it will change anytime soon. And there is a conspiracy aspect.

Why is affirmative action so popular with the old elites? It benefits them. In a merit system based on a few criteria poor smart kids can out compete rich dumb ones. If you include the "whole person" the kids from rich families can win in the resume competition. The fat cats get to displace lots of smart white and Asian kids. In return they let in a few members of officially recognized oppressed groups. In other words, they surrender 10-15% of the places and in return get back 85%. AND if anyone complains they call him a racist. Sweet deal.

Consider what judging the whole person means by taking a trip to Gold's Gym. Lots of people have memberships. Fewer actually show up regularly. Even fewer of them work out much while they are there and only a really small number achieve most of their objectives. Now assume you want to find out who are the strongest. You can look at the total person. In that case, you would find out how long they have been members. Then you might find out how much time they come to the gym. listen to how much they brag and check out who has the nicest gym suit. This would all take lots of time and there would be a lot of ambiguity. You would have a lot of scope to choose the people you want w/o taking into account real qualifications. Then you need adjustments. Some people might have started off weaker. Others spend a lot of time out of town. Should they be given special points?

Or maybe the easiest thing would just be to ask everybody to pick up the weights and see who can do it. Why complicate life?

Posted by Jack at December 3, 2006 9:26 PM
Comment #197596

Jack, too complicated. Keep representative quotas, and elevate academic performance standards. Then to compensate for all those who can’t cut it, publicly fund the revenue shortfall to keep the universities open. After all, there isn’t an institution or organization in this nation that doesn’t depend upon college graduates to function.

Education is a public concern, a private industry concern, and the nation’s future concern. It is time we elevated the standards to those competitive with the best of other nations and let those who fail, fail. If they wish to recover, let them recover on their own dime back to proficiency standards for acceptance once again in University.

Only if the nation places a premium on education will the students and parents also place a premium on it, and quit squandering the educational resources. As our 20th century history proved, a combination of public sector investment and competitive enterprise and standards produces maximum results.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 3, 2006 10:07 PM
Comment #197599


I do not disagree. My system is just about how to distribute space. There is a place for everyone who wants to study at American university and who has minimum requirements. Our system of community colleges is truly amazing. But it will always be the case that more people will want to attend Harvard, Yale, Berkeley or UVA than can fit.

The current system - even w/o affirmative action - is wasteful. Add affirmative action and it become pernicious.

Posted by: Jack at December 3, 2006 10:18 PM
Comment #197610

Jack: I like the idea but it will never get sold. It would never be acceptable to the good old boy’s club. The threshold would have to be rather high for say Harvard Law or Business School. If only b+ and above students were in the lottery, there would be many more students than slots. George Bush would never make the threshold. If you cut out the wealthy peoples ability to waltz their kids through the finest institutions, Harvards huge bankroll will dry up and they will demand that the government make up the difference.

Posted by: jlw at December 4, 2006 12:38 AM
Comment #197613

The more important subject is the horrible status of our schools in this country, particularly from K to 12. Too many of our public schools are underfunded, violent, unsecure, in dirty broken down buildings, have out of date books, and teachers which are no where near being qualified.

Secondly we need to look at the status of affirmative action: affirmative action, as of education not in general but as of education, does not help the people it should the most. Instead it helps middle class minorities who already come from a rather stable environment similar to that of the middle class majority.

Affirmative action in education does not overall, as much as it could, help lower class and underprivilged minoritites. The people who should be helped by affirmative action are the people who can amazingly make it through schools with bad teachers, terribe school buildings, violence prevalent in their schools, that are underfunded, and have out of date books. This is prevalent in both poor minority neighborhoods as well as poor rural white areas.

Affirmative action as it exists does not do what it is meant to do, and if it continues along this same path it never will.

The answer instead is to fix the primary school system. First in most areas of this countries schools are funded by the property tax, meaning rich neighborhoods get rich schools, middle class neighborhoods get average funded schools, and poor neighborhoods get schools that are underfunded. If we implement a system of equal education funding per student, which would be hard because education is a issue dominated by state power so each state would individually have to institute such a system, we would see much more equality in our educational system. Now granted racism would still affect the choices of colleges and the society in general which still has racist tendencies, but overall the system would be better than it is today.

Such a system would function as such:
1. Each school would spend X per student, where X is equal among all students in all areas of the state.

2. Classes in each school would have Y students per class, where Y is equal among all schools in all areas of the state. Studies have shown that smaller numbers of students per class increase productivity, thus an equal system should provide somewhat of an equal opporunity, opposed to where the current system in which some classes have 20 students and others just a few miles away have 35.

3. All teachers are qualified. This is a little bit harder to specify, but for me my minimum requirements for any teacher in the country would be at the very least a four year degree, and maybe even implement a residence program of a year similar to that for prospective doctors.

4. To make these teaching positions attractive to the most highly qualified prospects provide competitive wages. I would propose a system based on seniority and performance. Where starting pay, just out of undergraduate, would be $30,000 with the potential to reach $60,000 based on seniority and performance.

4. University Style Organization: Base the teacher’s jobs on their performance based on the assessment of their students and their colleagues. If a teacher continually is graded bad than they fail, where in the real world failing means fired. Further provide incentives to the good teachers by basing the system of schools in a university style. This means putting each sector in a department. Where there would be the History department, Biology department, Health department, etc. etc. This would provide teachers the incentives to perform well in order to become chairs or heads of their department and thus gain seniority, power of the structure of the program, and higher pay.

5. Provide a full spectrum of after school programs at all schools, from academic to athletic. After school programs are proven to raise the confidence, academics, and social skills of students.

Posted by: Richard Rhodes at December 4, 2006 2:25 AM
Comment #197618


I’ve heard this complaint that colleges discriminate against Asian students before, but I’ve never seen any evidence.

To clarify, I’m sure it’s harder than an Asian to get into an elite college than a Black or Hispanic person with similar characteristics. Affirmative action is supposed to help people who are “underrepresented”. Asian-Americans are not underrepresented, so they would get treated like Caucasians. You can’t give a preference to everyone.

In the article you cited, the source for the quota claim is a physician, not an educational expert.

If there really is a college or university that has an “Asian quota”, an Asian applicant should sue. I would support that person 100%.

Your grade/SAT scheme is sensible but would never fly. People don’t pay $30,000 in tuition so they can “get treated like a number”.

Most conservatives complain that the application system is an opportunity to show how oppressed you are. You have a different, “Jackist”, spin.

Posted by: Woody Mena at December 4, 2006 8:36 AM
Comment #197644

Jack said: “The current system - even w/o affirmative action - is wasteful. Add affirmative action and it become pernicious.”

We agree it is wasteful. We don’t seem to agree on the necessity to structurally combat racial discrimination in our educational institutions funded by public dollars. That afterall, is the heart of the issue. We cannot forget that the drivers of segregation and unequal education for differing races, overturned just 42 years ago, are still very much in play in the psyche of far too many Americans.

Affirmative Action costs money and is not as efficient as a straight performance based qualification system. On the other hand, Affirmative Action continues to exert a counter force against blatant racist behavior which wants to support itself with public tax dollars.

Given the race riots, the burning of our cities, the human rights violations by the Weather Underground and police forces and National Guard across this country in the 1960’s, the cost of Affirmative Action is still very much worth the spending to prevent a return to the violence in our streets which open racism fostered.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 4, 2006 11:33 AM
Comment #197646


My system allows for affirmative action. You set the bar at the level or qualification. Let’s make a hypothetical number score. If we set the threshold at 70, and then use radom numbers, a person with 71 has as good a chance as a person with 99. Even if minorities are concentrated at the lower scores (which is not necessarily true) they would still have the same chances.

We could in that way dispense with the overt racism of affirmative action.

Re fixing the public schools, that is a bigger story. I believe vouchers would be a good first step. We spend more money on “poor” schools in DC than we do at “rich” schools in the suburbs, but we do not get much for the money.

Posted by: Jack at December 4, 2006 11:44 AM
Comment #197653


You’ve made a serious proposal which much to recommend it. I guess what bugs me is that if I scored perfectly on the SAT (I didn’t; but I can dream) I wouldn’t have a greater shot at the school I want to attend than someone who merely scored well (which I did).

Having said that, your proposal warrants serious thought. The current system isn’t based purely on academic merit, either, of course. I guess we’d have to crunch the numbers to see what the result of your system would be.

Nice article.

Posted by: Trent at December 4, 2006 1:04 PM
Comment #197660

“officially recognized oppressed groups”!!!!?????. Who do you think affirmative action is for? Blacks, Hispanics, Asians? It is a program that offers meager compensation for them and cover for the tax payer (meaning the wealthy, since they pay most of the taxes). The Constitution has slavery written right into it, in several different places. It is THE guiding document that forms the substance of our present day government.
How ‘bout this for a solution: forget affirmative action, welfare, food stamps any sort of subsidy or crutch, JUST PAY THE BILL!!!!!!!! The bill for four million slaves lost in transit to this hemisphere, for three hundred years of unpaid work, for a hundred and fifty years of underpaid work and discrimination. That way, we will hear no more discussion of how UNFAIR the world is to anybody.
There is a bill out there, long, long overdue. Regards.

Oh yeah, don’t forget the interest and late fees.

Posted by: Charles Ross at December 4, 2006 1:55 PM
Comment #197666

Jack, well, I agree with your last comment to me, but, you also raise the far more difficult problem underlying poor school performance, and that is local cultural environment. Wash. D.C. schools exist in a horrible criminal environment (leaving Congress out of that equation for the moment), where good paying jobs are scarce without a college education, and where street work pays far more than hourly jobs without the requirement of a college education, (of course the legal risks are higher which is why the rewards are higher).

I know the cultural environments can be dealt with effectively, but, it will take immense investment in time, money, development, and legal changes. Start with giving D.C. representation in Congress. D.C. is not the only place. Check out Alabama whose power structure fosters poor education as a measure toward maintaining power.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 4, 2006 2:55 PM
Comment #197679


I do not think we can really calibrate that closely. Of course someone who gets a perfect score on the SAT is probably smart and someone who does very poorly is probably dumb, but there is a lot of gray in between. Beyond that, a explicit randomization would bring real diversity (ideas as well as colors) and would make admissions MORE predictable. At least you could have a good idea of your odds.


I agree about the culture, but not about the jobs. The DC metro area (all places that could be reached by public transportation) has a labor shortage. Street crime (as long as you do not get caught) can pay more than my job or (probably) yours.

DC has improved a lot anyway. They used to have a crack head mayor, but the most recent one, Anthony Williams, was very good. The newly elected, Adrian Fenty, one looks to follow in his footsteps. There are plenty of opportunities for the poor, but honest guy. We should not make excuses for those who take the low road.


Anybody who was a slave should get immediate compensation. It is much harder with decendents. Think of it when you get to cases. Alex Haley or Malcolm X have ancestors who were both slaves and slaveholders. Is that a wash? Should people whose ancestors were not here be compensated or asked to pay? Should we try to collect from the African states that sold the slaves or the Arabs that moved them overland, or the Portuguese who bought them or the …

Even in affirmative action circles, there is some disagreement over who should get what. Does a recent immigrant from Kenya deserve affirmative action because of his appearance or should we trace the “need” to only those who experienced slavery in America?

Compensation for slavery is a different issue, anyway.

Re affirmative action, you would contend that it should be only for blacks and only because of the history of slavery? BTW - Asians are specifically excluded from affirmative action and even seem to suffer a negative “affirmative” action.

Posted by: Jack at December 4, 2006 6:27 PM
Comment #197683

Well, I’m really not suggesting that we fully compensate the descendants of slaves. I am only saying that any help provided to blacks is inadequate given their treatment throughout history. The playing field is not level in the United States. Go to a web site called “collegerecruiter.com. It points out that identical resumes with a black sounding named applicant are much less likely to get an interview than an applicant with a white sounding name. This is an important bit of information as too many people are saying “problem, what problem? People are free to succeed and fail as they wish.” This is simply not true. We should be providing blacks with certain preferences and advantages not out of any sense of charity but because the various levels of government owe it to them. I am not saying that YOU owe anything, I’m saying that, because of the institutionalized racism that is ongoing in our country that advantages should be provided as a matter of justice. Regards

Posted by: charles Ross at December 4, 2006 6:45 PM
Comment #197701


When I applied for graduate school, I did not face hypothetical discrimination. The schools would say right out in their literature that they were not looking for people like me.

My daughter was born in S. America. When she was little, I used to check the hispanic box on her forms (origin in Latin America. I got ‘em on the technicality.). When we moved to a new school district, I tried to get her into the gifted program. They told me she could not because she had not been in last year. No options. A couple of weeks later I got a letter from the school, saying my hispanic daughter was so smart that they were sending her a special invitation. In other words, the white girl cannot get in when she asks, but the school comes looking for the hispanic girl, who BTW, is exactly the same girl.

In any case, my affirmative action program solves all these racial problems. It is 100% color blind. The random number generator has no memory and cannot have prejudice. I do not suppose the number 7 is more black or more white than the number 8.

We can truly judge people by the content of their characters and not the color of their skins.

Posted by: Jack at December 4, 2006 8:32 PM
Comment #197713

Charles Ross
Your argument that we owe it to them is hogwash. If I owe it to you, try to collect it from me.

There are many colleges and universities that are culturally dominated. They turn out excellent students. There should be more learning institutions generated at all levels. One of the problems is accountability in learning centers. When you have profs teaching and ranting and raving about subject matter outside of their class subject, they should be hauled in and fired.
For instance, in a mathematics prof starts in on the Iraqi war, or Islamic concerns, he is out of bounds and has no business there. When the learning centers start taking on a greater responsibility in teaching, then it should follow that the students who should be there will be there by whatever method of choosing them.

Posted by: tomh at December 4, 2006 9:45 PM
Comment #197741

The problem with GPA’s is that high schools are not created equal. My private school is more challenging than the local public schools, so my grades are probably lower than a student of equal intelligence at another school. However, we are still of equal intelligence, but with different grades. Low income areas have poorer schools and worse environments, making it harder for students to succeed.

The SAT is all english and math (and now writing, though it doesn’t count yet) but history and science are not included. A student good at history but worse at english and math would fair poorly, though not necessarily dumber than a student good at math. A student good at algebra but not geometry would fair poorly if the test had more geometry than algebra, though not necessarily dumber than a student good at geometry.

This is why I like Jack’s system. It takes a system that is unfairly random, and uses randomness to make things fairer. (or maybe equal would be a better word)

If you want to get into what the government owes other certain groups of people, all the whites should leave the Americas and go back to Europe where we came from, and provide free transportation for black people back to Africa. And what do we do with the africans who immigrated here since slavery? Do they get benefits? And who is going to pay the taxes for the government to repay african americans?

Posted by: Silima at December 5, 2006 1:11 AM
Comment #197758


The major problem with the random number generator that you have proposed is that it eliminates the ability to “customize” the student body to their goals.

Should Cal Tech and MIT have to take students with a stronger bent toward English and History that made the threshold? Right now those students would self-select away from those shools to Harvard, Duke, or Stanford. However, when their opportunity of attending one of the 12 to 15 elite institutions in the country is purely reduced to chance, these students will apply to them all.

Similarly, how does UVA field a football team based purely on chance? What happens if the lottery only pulls in quarterbacks and shooting guards?

The point is that these top universities are looking for a blend of students that offer a variety of different experiences. Harvard is trying to reshape itself into an international institution where it is the first choice for students not just in the U.S. They want not to beat just Yale anymore but also Oxford and Cambridge. If left to purely a random sampling of applicants, what chance to the 200 English applicants hold against the 20,000+ U.S. applicants? For that matter, what chance do the 40 kids from Kansas have against the 10,000 + applicants that come from the two coasts in the country?

Their first responsibility of these elite institutions is not to be fair to the applicant pool, but to create an environment that best serves those that actually become students. Designing a student body that creates learning opportunities in the cafeteria is as important as creating them in the classroom.

Posted by: Rob at December 5, 2006 9:46 AM
Comment #197771

I can only urge any that haven’t done so to sit down and read the Constitution. It most certainly institutionalized slavery at the federal level. Aren’t we all a product of our environment, of the values provided, in good measure, by our parents? . . . and their parents and grandparents on all the way back? What if you had fifteen generations of ancestors who were told when to work, where to live, when to mate, with whom to mate, restrictions on where you could go, what you could do? All at no compensation. As the product of all that, how much ambition would you have? I am old enough to recall seeing “whites only” drinking fountains. Overt, over the top racism occurred certainly in the fifties and sixties when I was young so we are not talking about ancient history here. I can readily understand the frustrations of the “ahkim’s” and “Jamal’s” when they put their names out into the world and hear nothing back.
We don’t provide advantages to blacks out of some “charity” or “pity” but because it is the just thing to do. Do you think that it is just a coincidence that such a large percentage of blacks live in poverty? What can one say to that? “Oh, they are just lazy”, or how about “they have a bad attitude”. People who claim that nothing is owed, nothing was done, didn’t happen, ancient history are just plain ignorant!!!!

Posted by: charles Ross at December 5, 2006 12:09 PM
Comment #197804

Different, but not better, Jack. The GPA/SAT solution is weak because:

- SAT scores are directly correlated with household income (not to say that there aren’t 1600s from poor neighborhoods, but there are no poor neighborhoods where the average graduating class’ SAT is 1300);

- grade inflation - pulling an affluent HS in TX, more than 10% of the graduating class had at least a 4.0;

- how do you account for the raw brains from bad neighborhood who was just below the cutoff for the Harvard lottery versus the not so smart but rich who squeaked by with unlimited access to tutors?

Simple formulas are no more democratic/fair than the current process. Simple formulas allow those with means to beat the system while the poor get screwed(for further examples, see the federal tax code).

Jack, I’m sorry your daughter experienced reverse discrimination. However, that doesn’t mean minorities are getting away with everything.

And for every case of reverse discrimination I can rattle off 20 traditional cases of gender/ethnic discrimination - and those cases don’t stop when people are out of school.

Posted by: CPAdams at December 5, 2006 3:45 PM
Comment #197910


You could set the criteria as you wish. At MIT a person would need higher math competence. Frankly, I do not care about sports, but I suppose we could make exceptions for individuals of extraordinary talent. Just not many.

My whole idea is premised on the assumption that QUALIFIED applicants outnumber places. If this is not true, then we do not need any filter. If it is true, the random number generator will choose from among qualified applicants.


History counts, but be careful how you use it. Go back to 1865 and you have a lot of people living in what we would today consider slavery or serfdom. During WWII whole populations were enslaved and liquided. They still have slavery in parts of Africa. Many people have overcome great hardships. I believe that racism is still a problem today, but it is more likely the soft bigotry of low expectations (as Condoleeza Rice says).


It depends on what you are rattling off. Everyone has suffered discrimination, or thinks he has. I have been the victim of overt discrimination. I do not call it reverse.

Re SAT scores & grades. It is not a perfect system but it is better than most others. Let me emphasize that my proposal looks to minimum competence. Anyone below that cannot be expected to succeed, no matter what the reason.
Once you pass the threshold, you are in the running.

I was a poor kid who could score very well on those tests. I have done well in life, but I am convinced that I would do less well if I was starting out now. I had on resume. I worked at a factory in the summer and fast food in the winter. But the test did not hold that against me. Rich kids do better on tests on average, but a poor kid who is reasonably smart should do all right. Rich kids do a lot better on resume. No matter how smart the poor kid, he cannot compete with that. Of the measures available, the test is the best.

Posted by: Jack at December 6, 2006 12:28 AM
Comment #197976


The primary mission of Harvard and similar institutions is to find those with exceptional talent. Most of the applicants meet the minimum thresholds that you would apply; however, the reason it seems unfair is because the applicant screeners are looking for distinguishers. It is not enough to simply be a good student to get into Harvard. They are looking for Westinghouse winners, top athletes (in the most sports, the best they can get in Basketball, baseball, and football), top musicians, eagle scouts, etc. There are many ways that the successful entrants can distinguish themselves in many different ways, but well-roundedness is not typically something that works. They want exceptional talent and proof that it is applied on top of the minimum threshholds.

The goal like it or not is not fairness. The goal is to pick a pool of applicants that have demonstrated that they will be strong contributers to the student body. The next major component is that they have the potential to be leaders in the next generation. Thus, the well-rounded 4.0 GPA student with 1450 SATs are often over looked, but if you have a 3.5 with 1400 SAT and can run a sub 5 minute mile or have played in Carnegie hall, then you are likely to get in. Similarly, a 3.2 and a 1300 from New Orleans that writes a masterpiece on Katrina refugees, or your a direct descendent of a President, you will also have a great chance.

The end result is that the student body as a whole is not only qualified, but interesting. Elite institutions typically have a graduation rate above 95%. Finding applicants that can do the work is not the issue. Finding applicants that can contribute to both the student body and the legacy of the institution is their goal.

Fairness as an objective in elite admissions is over emphasized. As you pointed out, there are a lot of places that are well suited to educate the next members of the middle and upper classes. Those that don’t make it to the superelite institutions will be fine. Instead, those superelite institutions are focused on developing the leaders of the next generation.

Picking those candidates for that training is just like picking candidates for a job. You wouldn’t suggest if you had an opening for a management position that you gave all potential candidates a test and those that meet the minimum threshold go into a random number generator to pick the successful winner would you? It would be more “fair,” but what impact would such a capricious decision making have on the company?

Posted by: Rob at December 6, 2006 3:01 PM
Comment #198086


It depends on how many you are hiring.

You know many people spend a lot of time trying to beat the stock market. Few people can do it. Most of us do better with an index fund. It is not logical to believe that a random grouping can produce a better result than an active search, but it often can.

If you have a committee looking for special people, they will recreate their prejudices. We can probably agree on the very best to let in and the very worst to keep out, but most of the student choices are no better than a random choice with a threshold requirement.

I have hired lots of people over the years. I look for qualifications and sometimes (often) I have a strong feeling about somebody. I usually make good choices, but I am not sure if it is not the Pygmalion effect. Maybe the ones I do not choose would be better, but I will never know. But I must admit that sometimes I cannot choose logically. In that case, I go with rock-paper-scissors. It is as good as I am.

You also know that very often more data produces poorer decisions, although it makes us feel more certain about them.

Posted by: Jack at December 6, 2006 11:31 PM
Comment #198139

Most of us can’t beat the stock market, but there are those that can. They are professional stock traders/ analysts. They don’t get everything right over time, but on average, they outperform the market averages. Now these guys have their biases and prejudices against and for stocks as well. Some of their best wins and worst mistakes are made because of them, I’m sure.

The same can be said of recruiters for elite universities. They do have their prejudices, but on a whole they outpreform a random number generator.

Posted by: Rob at December 7, 2006 9:55 AM
Comment #198290


The point is that MOST of them do not. Most of the professionally managed funds underperform thier indexes over time.

The way professionals can help is with allocation of assets. This is very close to the threshold and random model. You can determine the shape of your selection, but you should not be too precise about individuals.

The other important difference is that the university adds value and presumably changes the students.

Posted by: Jack at December 8, 2006 8:22 AM
Comment #198302

That is the case. But the university is not just a pool of resources that act upon the students. It is a dynamic environment where students act on the university and on each other. Technical schools prioritize instructions. Universities prioritize community. Elite universities want to maximize the community feel by choosing those who can contribute most to it.

Posted by: Rob at December 8, 2006 11:13 AM
Comment #198363


That is the theory. In practice, we get lots of rich kids who would not make it on their own (both Bush & Kerry), members of favored minority groups and those who the established university officials think are worthy.

A university that does not take government money (are there any?) has a right to do what it wants. But do take away the teeth and do not let them claim the moral high ground for engaging their prejudices.

There is an interesting result to Califonia ban on affirmative action. UC Berkely has become more diverse, with more Asians and more hispanics than before. There are fewer whites and blacks. In addition, the UC schools are getting a greater number of very qualified Asians, since they do not suffer the discrimination they get at the Ivys.

Posted by: Jack at December 8, 2006 4:50 PM
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