The LA Times reports that UC campuses have “set records for diversity, as students from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups increased to 43.8% of the admitted first-year class. For the third straight year, Latinos were the largest ethnic group at 37.3%, followed by Asian Americans at 35%, white students at 18.6% and Black students at 5.7%.” The article also reports that “About 47% of admitted California first-year students are low-income, and 44% would be the first in their families to earn a bachelor’s degree.” The article also states that the UC system is “admitting a record number of new students for fall 2022 with “85,268 California first-year applicants — a 1.2% increase of 1,045 students over last year.”
It is important to point out that this record for diversity and decline in White enrollment, is after Californians rejected Prop 16. Prop 16, which was unanimously endorsed by UC Regents, would have overturned Prop 209, which was passed in 1998, and banned the consideration of race, ethnicity, or gender in public employee hiring and public university admissions. However, universities have other strategies to boost diversity. For instance increasing enrollment, targeted recruitment strategies, and relying more upon personal admissions essays. In 2021 the UC System immediately ended the use of standardized testing in admissions. Another LA Times article on how the UCs are responding to the Affirmative Action ban reported that “the University of California weighs applicants’ socioeconomic status and whether they’re the first in their family to attend college — race-blind strategies meant to increase diversity.” A Wall Street Journal article on new admissions strategies reports that “Efforts to boost diversity could include widening recruiting efforts, getting more context on applicants’ backgrounds and offering spots to students before they even apply.”
The decline in the number of out of state and foreign students was also noteworthy. Out of state applicants declined by 19% (5,359 students), and international students by 12.2% (2,442 students) .” Governor Newsom and the state legislature provided $82.5 million in funds to enroll more low income in-state students to replace the nonresidents. After the 2008 recession, the UC system was short on revenue and aggressively recruited affluent foreign and out of state students, who pay much higher tuition rates. While international students contribute disproportionately to revenue, there were complaints based upon a 2016 state audit, that foreign students displaced in-state students for admissions. The UC system was able to slash foreign and out of state enrollment, due to the State’s budget surplus. However, this decision seems shortsighted, as we are now entering a severe recession and potentially another State budget crisis.
Overall there is a major policy shift to reduce the number of out of state students from UC Admissions, the state legislature, and Governor Newsom. The LA Times article quotes Dale Leaman, UC Irvine’s executive director of undergraduate admissions, that the campus was “trying to be responsive” to the state’s expectations to decrease nonresidents,” and that “We’re being very careful about overadmitting nonresidents.” The decline in White enrollment could be partially due to the decline in out of state students, who are disproportionately White.
There were concerns that the complaints about foreign students could have xenophobic undertones. Despite California’s reputation as a place welcoming of people from all over the world, there has been a dramatic decline in both foreign immigration and domestic in-migration. The scrapping of non-resident students shows that California is ironically adopting a more insular, regionalist, and parochial mindset of having less of an obligation to “outsiders,” that is strangely fused with equity. For instance implications that upper middle class White students from other states take slots away from California’s “diversity”, or that since California is majority “minority,” there is less of a need to be welcoming to foreigners.
White UC enrollment (brown) vs. eligible White student demographic (grey) from 1998 (affirmative action ban) to 2019
White students admitted as Freshman at UC campuses from 1998 to 2019
The LA Times article reports that “applications and admission offers increased for Latino, Asian American, Black and Native American students and declined among white and Pacific Islander students.” Contrasting enrollment and overall demographic stats from 2019 to this Fall’s enrollment, White enrollment declined from 22% of total UC enrollment (27% of all eligible UC applicants) in 2019 to 18.6% of Freshman admissions in 2022, Latino enrollment grew from 34% of UC enrollment (45% of eligible UC applicants) in 2019 to 37.3% of Freshman admissions in 2022, and Black enrollment grew from 4.8% (4.2% of eligible UC applicants) in 2019 to 5.7%. in 2022. While Asian enrollment went from 36% (20% of eligible applicants) in 2019 to 35% in 2022, overall enrollment numbers still increased. In summary Asians are the most overrepresented, Whites underrepresented, Latinos still underrepresented but moving closer to equitable representation, and Blacks are now slightly overrepresented.
Whites are now the third largest demographic after Latinos and Asians in the UC System. This underrepresentation is notable, even factoring in the decline in out of state students, and that the State’s overall White population is older. Also White performance on SAT and GPA scores are above the State’s average. I don’t think demographics are the main reason for that much of a shift in such a short period of time. Some White students could be writing something else on applications (eg. Native American or Hispanic), but probably not enough to cause a dramatic shift.
Since the racial reckoning of 2020, there have been reports that a greater number of White university applicants are being rejected. This spring Peachy Keenan, contributor to the Claremont Institute’s American Mind, reported that “Am hearing that Brentwood, prestigious private school in LA, is in chaos after almost zero white seniors got into to UC schools. When friends went there in happier times, UC acceptance was like 80%. This year, bipoc kids only. Parents who spent $60K/yr+ for 6 years little upset.” It seems that a lot of affluent White Californians are abandoning UCs for California’s private universities or out of state Universities, the later which could have long term demographics implications.
The conservative blog, Revolver News, has a post provocatively titled , Colleges are Ethnically Cleansing America’s White Kulaks, proclaiming that “At one elite school after another, ordinary white Americans are being treated as academia’s “undesirables” and are slowly being cleansed out.” The Revolver News piece references a Twitter thread on observations about demographic and political changes at elite universities by Daniel Schmidt, a University Chicago Freshman, who has been featured on Fox News. Daniel Schmidt stated that at the prestigious University of Chicago, “I have not met a single middle-class white kid. By white, I mean of European ancestry. Every white kid I know is either low-income, like myself, or extremely wealthy,” and that “It seems it’s virtually impossible to get into an elite university as a middle-class white kid unless the kid has an extremely prodigal ability. The standards for all other economic classes are way lower.”
However, the anti-affirmative action movement has been primarily focused on anti-Asian discrimination, which is less politically incorrect to discuss. In 2018, an Asian American law professor filed a lawsuit against the UC System, alleging violations of the affirmative action ban by discriminating against Asian Americans in admissions. While Asian UC enrollment has increased, the Asian proportions at the Ivies, including Harvard, have remained flat. This is despite the upward mobility of Asian Americans and the Asian share of the US college aged population doubling over the past 30 years. Ivies such as Harvard have been accused of anti-Asian racism by Asian American activists and conservatives. However, some more woke Asian American figures have accused conservatives of disingenuously exploiting Asian American concerns about affirmative action, and virtue signaling to deflect from allegations of White Supremacy. Regardless, Asian Americans were at the forefront in defeating California’s Prop 16, which Whites also voted against, with Latinos roughly split, and only Blacks supporting the measure by overwhelming margins.
When California banned affirmative action in 1998, White enrollment had a brief bump and then actually declined dramatically while Asian enrollment grew substantially. The affirmative action ban seems to have benefited Asians tremendously but ironically the impact on Whites seems to have been neutral to negative. There is a perception that academic meritocracy benefits Asians the most while affirmative action benefits BIPOC the most. This dichotomy often ignores Whites who perform academically in between BIPOC and Asians, and often get squeezed out from both ends, equity and meritocracy. Since Asians outperform other groups academically, including Whites, there is an anti-meritocracy/equity angle of punishing Asians for their academic success. However, CRT type arguments are more antagonistic towards Whites, than Asians, and view Whites as the most privileged group. Both political sides miss or refuse to acknowledge the distinction between punishing Asians for their success and Whites for past sins.
With quota based affirmative action, both Whites and Asians are penalized. However, the use of personal admissions essays and selective recruitment strategies grants admissions greater discretion than with quotas. Woke admissions officers might view Whites as more privileged than Asians. There is a delicate balancing act between racial equity concerns focused on BIPOC and concerns from Asian American advocacy groups about discrimination. This balancing act, which likely influences admissions, may have played some role in sacrificing White enrollment. Blatant discrimination is difficult to prove but the question is how much discretion admissions officers have and how much oversight there is. The new status quo might be worse than affirmative action quotas, due to less transparency.
Woke politics has been described as asymmetrical multiculturalism, such as how the LA Times article uncaps White while capping all other groups. Another example is how White student unions are beyond the pale, and associated with the most vile bigotry. The basic equity argument to justify affirmative action says that Whites, and Asians to a degree, should not be overrepresented and BIPOC (Black and Latino) should not be underrepresented. However, even saying that Whites should be represented based upon equitable proportions is controversial. The basis for asymmetrical multiculturalism is America’s majoritarian framework. However, under a pluralist multiculturalist framework, White social organizations appear rather benign. Whites have to be included for multiculturalism to work and under symmetrical multiculturalism, all groups are just treated as minorities, which is a much healthier model for somewhere as diverse as California.
The question is whether some version of affirmative action is needed for a multicultural society to maintain balance. For instance Singapore’s affirmative action type policies that seek to balance meritocracy with fair representation of minorities. However, Singapore’s model is different from America’s equity politics, that relies upon a victim vs. oppressor dialect. Singapore’s model is rather about maintaining demographic balance and social harmony between groups. I have reservations about ethnic quotas, but Singapore’s model would be a vast improvement over the status quo, especially in California.
Examples of this model of affirmative action in practice are a balanced quota system to ensure that no demographic group gets greatly underrepresented or where each group is entitled to a certain number of campuses where they are a plurality. California already sort of has this, where Cal Poly San Luis Obispo is the only majority White pubic university in California, UC Irvine has a reputation for high Asian enrollment, and UC Merced was created more recently to help increase Latino enrollment. There is also some degree of geographic based affirmative action such as admitting students with the top GPA from each school rather than the top GPAs in the entire State. Geographic affirmative action could be a compromise between Whites and BIPOC but there are concerns that it could discriminate against Asians due to geographic concentrations.
There are major flaws in both relying upon SATs for enrollment and personal admissions essays, which allow for too much subjective bias in enrollment. I would much rather see more specialization in education, with the goal of helping each student find their niche. For instance if a student does poorly on the SAT for math but excels in other fields, they should be admitted to study in their particular field of expertise. I would also support scrapping bloated educational bureaucracies and taxing endowments to fund vouchers for private colleges and grants for independent studies and research. Overall specialization would be much less divisive than any race focused policies.
The Supreme Court could soon outlaw affirmative action. Even though I voted against prop 16 to reinstate affirmative action, a total nationwide ban could create more scenarios where there is greater discretion on behalf of admissions. Overall the anti-affirmative action movement has its shortcomings. Maybe White conservative should re-consider their opposition to affirmative action on meritocratic grounds and instead lobby for fair representation. In places where Whites are a minority, such as California, it makes sense for Whites to embrace multiculturalism.