Discrimination Against Whites in College Admissions

There is an ugly truth bearing its head in our institutions of higher learning, and there are dire consequences to be had as a result. White students, specifically poor white students, have been heavily discriminated against in the college admissions process for decades. That last sentence will seem counter-intuitive to some, but the data is conclusive and it may be at the very core of why we have such a dramatic ideological divide in politics these days.

The National Survey of College Experience collected data on 30+ colleges and universities (see the incisive book written by Thomas Espenshade and Alexandria Radford on the data) going back to the early 1980’s and what they found were consistent policies of racial discrimination in admissions across the board. This goes beyond affirmative action, where lesser qualified black and Hispanic students routinely get accepted at the expense of more academically deserving white and Asian students. More disturbingly, it even affected financial aid amounts in an inverse manner for white and black students.

Much like affirmative action policies in admissions are a misguided attempt by colleges and universities to “right the wrongs of the past”, the disturbing data on financial aid packages seem to indicate a less noble force at work: greed. Since colleges and universities are only allotted a certain amount of aid to give away to help defray the costs of the education they’re selling, they have to choose which students get the money. What the data shows is that the poorer a minority student was, the more financial aid was offered by the college. However, the poorer the white student was, the less aid was made available by the college.

Many proponents of race-based admissions policies would argue that one of the main reasons for giving lesser qualified black and Hispanic students an advantage over their white counterparts is to try and dilute the unfair advantage that rich white students have, particularly in the case of legacy students, or students whose fathers are golf buddies with the Dean, or connected in some other way. The problem with that entire notion is that the majority of white students have no such built-in advantage, and as a result are being punished simply because they are white, and therefore assumed to be rich and connected. This theory of “white privilege” is a popular one – the problem with the theory is that it is entirely, and provably false. According to the US Census Bureau, there are more poor white people in the United States, then there are poor blacks and Hispanics combined. Roughly half of all people living below the poverty line in this country are white, so it would seem unlikely that they have been made aware of this mythical “white privilege” that is allegedly making life so much easier for them.

In the end, it is these poor whites that are discriminated against the most. If they are poor white and male, it is unlikely that there are any scholarships available to them. The fact that the colleges pile on by limiting aid to the better off white students in an effort to curry favor with those that are statistically more likely to be rich alumni in the near future, only exacerbates the issue. As covered already on the blog mindingthecampus, “The enormous disadvantage incurred by lower-class whites in comparison to non-whites and wealthier whites is…a result of the fact that, except for the very wealthiest institutions like Harvard and Princeton, private colleges and universities are reluctant to admit students who cannot afford their high tuition’s. There is some charity assistance in some cases, but it’s rare. And since they have a limited amount of money to give out for scholarship aid, they reserve this money to lure those who can be counted in their enrollment statistics as diversity-enhancing “racial minorities.”

Poor whites are apparently given little weight as enhancers of campus diversity, while poor non-whites count twice in the diversity tally, once as racial minorities and a second time as socioeconomically deprived. Private institutions,…intentionally save their scarce financial aid dollars for students who will help them look good on their numbers of minority students. However, this cannot explain why well-qualified lower-class whites are not at least offered admission without financial aid. The mere offer of admission is costless, and at least a few among the poor whites accepted would probably be able to come up with outside scholarship aid…The ugly truth is that most colleges, especially the more competitive private ones, are fiercely concerned with their ratings by rating organizations like U.S. News & World Report. And an important part of those ratings consist of a numerical acceptance rate (the ratio of applicants received to those accepted) and a yield score (the ratio of those accepted to those who enroll). The lower the acceptance rate and the higher the yield score the more favorably colleges are looked upon. In extending admissions to well-qualified but financially strapped whites who are unlikely to enroll, a college would be driving both its acceptance rate and its yield score in the wrong direction.”

Which leads us to the root of our increasingly divided society. Despite the perception that the Republican party is the bastion of the rich, white elites – the reality is much different. There just aren’t that many rich people in the world, and FOX News dominates the ratings day in, and day out. The average viewer of Fox News, or listener to Rush Limbaugh and the other pundits of conservative radio tend to be poorer and lower-middle class whites – the same people getting the short end of the stick for years in higher education. Liberals might joke that this lack of education explains their watching of Fox News, but kidding aside – it appears to represent a manifestation of the frustrations experienced by many of these people that have never benefited from this mythical “white privilege”, yet have gone through life treated as if they have rich relatives somewhere. More recently, we can see that manifestation in groups like The Tea Party.

So what’s the solution? Whatever it is, it’s no doubt complicated, and politically untenable. It would seem a more appropriate response would be to try and close the achievement gap amongst black and Hispanic students, so that schools don’t need to discriminate against whites just to get their desired diversity ratios. Figuring out a way to accomplish that is beyond the scope of this article, but if we desire as a nation to become less divisive, and provide an equal opportunity for all, then we’d better get our best minds working on the problem soon. Unfortunately, many of them will probably never be able to get the education they need in order to contribute to the solution if they happen to be poor, white and male.

If you found the previous article informative, you should check out more in our college life section, or read some of these articles below: