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Kaplan Test Prep Survey: With Affirmative Action Case Pending In Supreme Court, Admissions Officers Show Varying Levels Of Concern About Impact Of Banning Race-Conscious Admissions Policies

As the Supreme Court revisits the future of affirmative action with Schuette v. the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, recent data from Kaplan Test Prep shows that among admissions officers, those at law schools and medical schools are the most concerned about the potential negative impact of a ban on race-conscious admissions policies, while the gatekeepers at colleges and business schools are much less concerned as a whole.

Sixty-one percent of law school admissions officers surveyed said they believe a ban on affirmative action would hurt efforts to foster racial diversity among their student populations, while at medical schools, a slight majority (52%) expressed similar concern. In contrast, only 33% of colleges, 34% of business schools, and 40% of graduate schools said they believe a ban on race-conscious admissions policies would negatively impact racial diversity at their schools.

Among the other findings from Kaplan Test Prep’s 2013 admissions officers survey series:

  • Schools Overwhelmingly Consider Racial Diversity Important: Of the colleges surveyed, 96% say that it is important for their school’s administration to have a racially diverse student body. A strong majority of medical schools surveyed (83%) also consider racial diversity in their student population important; law schools were unanimous (100%), business and grad schools nearly so (99% and 98%, respectively). A lesser majority of students agree: in a Kaplan survey of nearly 700 college applicants in June, 60% said it’s “very important” or “somewhat important” for the college they attend to have a racially diverse student body.
  • Affirmative Action Policies Most Prevalent Among Med Schools; Least So Among B-Schools: 16% of business schools, 21% of colleges, 37% of graduate schools, 45% of law schools and 57% of medical schools surveyed reported having race-conscious affirmative action policies currently in place. Ten percent of colleges preferred not to say. (Eight states currently ban the use of race-conscious affirmative action: AZ, CA, FL, NE, NH, OK, TX, WA.)
  • Most Believe Policies Have Been Effective: Among the schools with affirmative action policies, a strong majority feel these have been effective in fostering racial diversity in their schools (89% of colleges, 96% of law schools, 85% of medical schools, 78% of business schools and 96% of graduate schools).

The findings are notable as the Supreme Court returns to session with a high-profile affirmative action case on the docket: Schuette v. the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, which stems from a 2006 statewide referendum in Michigan, in which voters approved a ban on race as a factor in decision-making in public education, employment and contracting. A coalition of interest groups and individuals has argued that the ban violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and the Sixth Circuit Court agreed, overturning the ban in 2011. Bill Schuette, Michigan’s current state attorney general, has brought the case to the Supreme Court.

“Our data shows that medical and law schools rely the most on affirmative action policies to foster racially diverse student populations, and are the most concerned about the potential negative impact of a ban on race-conscious policies,” said Seppy Basili, vice president at Kaplan Test Prep. “But it’s safe to say that most schools value racial diversity, and if affirmative action is eliminated, it’s likely that they’ll seek to achieve a diverse population other ways, including finding other proxies for race to bring diversity to campus and seeking partnerships to improve the pipeline of academically talented, underrepresented students.”

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