As colleges eye a potential ban on the use of race as a qualifying factor in admissions decisions, evidence suggests that race-neutral alternatives that account for economic inequality can still foster racial and ethnic diversity on college campuses. That’s the main theme of a new report, “A Better Affirmative Action: State Universities That Created Alternatives to Racial Preferences,” released today by the Century Foundation. The report’s release comes as the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to hear oral arguments next week in a much-anticipated challenge to the University of Texas at Austin’s race-conscious undergraduate admissions policy. In August, a number of higher-education associations, civil-rights groups, and the Obama administration defended race-conscious admissions policies in briefs submitted to the court.
The Century Foundation’s new report, by Richard D. Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the nonpartisan research group, argues that race-neutral admissions policies “are worth pursuing on their own merits, whatever the racial dividend.” It includes outlines of the alternative policies employed in nine states where public colleges have at one time been barred from considering race in their admissions decisions. “On the whole, states have been remarkably successful in preserving—or even exceeding—the levels of racial and ethnic diversity found before the use of race and ethnicity was eliminated as an admissions criteria,” the report says.