UC Admissions Policy Change and Asian-Americans: Controversy over Simulations

“Dad, I have to sign up for the SAT II tests!”

The Daughter was annoyed that she still had to take the SAT subjects tests (formerly known as the SAT II tests), as the University of California’s elimination of the SAT II test requirement and other eligibility changes, called Entitled to Review (ETR), take effect after she graduates from high school.  The controversy over ETR, which was intended as a way of increasing diversity, continues.  As Efren pointed out here, a simulation done in early 2009 of the effects of the changes showed there would be a significant decrease in the number of Asian Americans admitted, negligible changes in the number of African-Americans and Hispanics and an increase in whites.  UC ran a new simulation of the in the fall of 2009 that showed that system wide, African-American , Hispanic, and Asian-Americans admits would have dropped roughly 25%, 10%, and 3% respectively while whites admits would have gained more than 20% compared to 2007-2008 admits.  Seemingly not satisfied with those results, UC ran a third simulation which Mark Rashid says in this KQED forum on university admissions shows little change in Asian-American enrollment.

This editorial in New American Media by Henry Der, Ling Chi Wang, and Vincent Pan charges that this third simulation was made because UC didn’t like the previous results.  They assert that the assumptions made by the third simulation were bad, and claim that even this flawed third simulation shows that the number of African-Americans and Asian-Americans will decrease.

It’s hard to know who is right when the data is not available, as I had trouble finding details on the third and final simulation.   It isn’t unreasonable to change assumptions while doing a number of simulations, although I have to agree with Henry Der and company to say that the way the simulation have been done and  the way the results have been released does make it look like UC is fishing for the right input to get the results that they want.   I’d also agree with the editorial that UC equivocates on the admissions simulations by saying that it is hard to predict results, and then suggests what those results will be (see section VI).

The editorial concludes by saying that with reductions in funding for UC and increases in tuition, is not clear that ETR will increase diversity.  I’m not sure if the simulations deal with that – the editorialists say that none of them do.  To me, the best way to increase diversity would be to improve the quality of secondary education for all, and this whole approach of finding more clever ways of dividing up the admissions pie seems to have given up on that.  Also, the decreases in the number of freshman admits this year, the problems one hears about getting classes these days in UC, and the resulting extra time it takes to graduate have The Daughter looking out of state.  As this article points out, she is not alone.

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About Jeff

Jeff lives in Silicon Valley, and attempts to juggle marriage, fatherhood, computer systems research, running, and writing.
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