Race: One Among Many Factors?

If there is one refrain that is repeated, mantra-like, over and over again by defenders of racial preferences, it is that race is only “one of many factors” in admissions decisions. The quotes are ubiquitous, as in the president of the University of Michigan, Mary Sue Coleman’s, repeated assertions that “there is no effective substitute for the consideration of race as one of many factors in our admissions decisions.”

Well, what are the “many factors” the University of Michigan considers? Its admission scale (as quoted in Jennifer Gratz’s Supreme Court brief) has 150 points, with a virtually guaranteed admission to those scoring over 100 points. Let’s look at the “many factors”:

Up to 80 points can be based on high school grade point average (e.g., 40 points for a 2.0 GPA; 60 points for a 3.0; and 80 points for a 4.0)…. Up to 12 points, representing a perfect ACT/SAT score, can be earned for performance on either of the two standardized tests; up to 10 points for quality of school; from 8 to -4 points for strength or weakness of high school curriculum; 10 points for in-state residency; 4 points for alumni rela- tionships; 1 point for an outstanding essay (changed to 3 points beginning in 1999); and 5 points for personal achievement or leadership on the national level. Under a “miscellaneous” category, a flat 20 points are added for one of several factors, including an applicant’s membership in an “underrepresented” racial or ethnic minority group.

So, the “many factors” are: grades, test scores (with only 12 points for a perfect score!), quality of school, quality of student’s curriculum, quality of essay, leadership, legacy status, geography, and race.

Race counts for more — usually, a great deal more — than everything else on the list except grades.

Say What? (10)

  1. Joanne Jacobs March 31, 2003 at 3:01 am | | Reply

    A study in the ’90s look at students’ grades and their scores on standardized tests. In the low-scoring schools, A students earned similar test scores to C students at high-scoring schools.

    So UM is given the most points to grades, which are highly unreliable, and very little to test scores, which act as a corrective to grades. I suppose the premium for quality of school corrects to some extent.

  2. Andrew Lazarus March 31, 2003 at 10:12 am | | Reply

    May I say that the transparent dishonesty of the “one factor” defense has done more to alienate me from classical AA than any amount of Constitutional argument….

  3. Gus M March 31, 2003 at 3:12 pm | | Reply

    There was a website that had on online calculator so you could determine if you would be admitted to U of Mich. I have lost the link and searches for it have turned up empty. Can anyone help me find it? I remember putting in my information and finding out that I wouldn’t be in based on me being Asian, but I would get in if I were black or Hispanic.

  4. Gus M March 31, 2003 at 3:15 pm | | Reply

    Follow up. I found an article (http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/002/009ptdmu.asp)that discussed the calculator, but the link provided by the article doesn’t work.

  5. John Rosenberg March 31, 2003 at 3:59 pm | | Reply

    Andrew – I appreciate your comment. “Admissions against interest” are always hard, but also always a sign of honesty and open-mindedness.

    Gus – The Calculator you’re looking for can be found on the Center for Equal Opportunity web site, http://www.ceousa.org. Go to the Home Page; scroll down the right column and click on “Race and University of Michigan Admissions: What Are The Chances That you’ll Get In?”

  6. md April 1, 2003 at 12:01 pm | | Reply

    If you use the calculator, and you took the SATs in the 80s or early 90s, give yourself at least an extra 100 points. They “readjusted” the scores in the last 5 or 6 years.

  7. Gus M April 4, 2003 at 4:36 pm | | Reply

    Thanks John for that calculator, but it wasn’t the one I was thinking of. I couldn’t find it because the site was down, presumably because of the oral arugments, but the site is back up now.


    It is a more specific calculator because it lists the 150 point scale and what you would score if you had applied. FWIW, I entered in my actual information, (3.8 GPA, 1390 SAT, decent, but not great, HS), and got 98 points, just short of automatic admission.

    I then entered in the information for my sister-in-law. Same GPA with a 760 SAT, but an underrepresented minority. She scored 104.

    Nearly identical records, except I nearly outscored her entire SAT with just my math portion, yet she is in automatically, and I don’t. Sounds fair to me.

  8. Gus M April 4, 2003 at 4:42 pm | | Reply

    I probably sounded too harsh towards my sister-in-law in my last comment. In fact, she is the epitome of the “test scores don’t equal good grades” theory. Even though she had terrible SAT scores, she was admitted to a large state univerisity (which had automatic admission for students with a GPA over a certain amount, for in-state students). She then proceeded to graduate summa cum laude in only 3.5 years, earning only 1 B among a sea of As in her entire college career.

  9. Kirk Parker April 5, 2003 at 8:46 pm | | Reply

    > there is no effective substitute for

    > the consideration of race as one of

    > many factors

    Even this statement is nonsensical on its face. If there really are “many factors”, how bad is it if one of them gets omitted anyway? I.e. if you are basing your decision on 10 factors and one of them is omitted, your resulting totals will be within 10% of the previous values, not matter how much individual variance there was in the eliminated factor, assuming all factors are weighted equally.

    But of course, in the UM case they aren’t all equal, so the “one factor among many” is quite misleading (and dishonest as well, if the person making it has the slightest mathematical understanding.)

  10. The Colossus of Rhodey April 27, 2010 at 5:23 pm | | Reply

    Why don’t supporters of Arizona’s new law just use liberals’ own words?

    And those would be “race as one of many factors.” After all, critics of the law are mischaracterizing what it means in the most ridiculous terms imaginable; however, why couldn’t the law’s supporters used the same “logic” that “progressives” use…

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