New Admission Rules Will Do Little to Increase Racial Diversity at UCLA and Berkeley

Thirteen years after the passage of Proposition 209, which banned the consideration of race in admission decisions at the University of California, officials are still wrestling with ways to increase racial diversity of the student body. Asian students make up more than 40 percent of all enrollees but only 12 percent of the state’s population.

Under current admission procedures, the top 12.5 percent of all high school students statewide qualify for admission to the University of California system. In addition, the top 4 percent of the graduating class at each high school in the state qualifies for admission. This includes high schools in Oakland, Los Angeles, and other cities that are almost all black.

Under new admission guidelines that will come into effect in 2012, only the top 9 percent of students statewide will qualify for admission to the system. But the top 9 percent of graduating students at every high school in the state (up from 4 percent) will also qualify for admission. Because there are many high schools that are almost all black, the new rules undoubtedly will significantly increase the number of black students who qualify for admission to the nine undergraduate campuses of the University of California system.

But students who qualify for admission to the system must still compete for places at the various campuses. Because blacks are likely to have lower SAT scores and lower high school grade point averages than white and Asian students, they will win few of the places at the very selective campuses such as UCLA and Berkeley. Therefore, it is likely that Berkeley and UCLA will continue to have student bodies that are predominantly white and Asian, and blacks will be funneled to the least selective campuses of the system.

Data supplied to JBHE shows that this fall African Americans make up 4.4 percent of the incoming class at the University of California at Los Angeles. At Berkeley, the most prestigious campus of the University of California system, blacks are just 3.3 percent of all freshmen this fall. Black enrollments at these two campuses were about 7 percent of the student body prior to Proposition 209.