A new admissions policy set to take effect at the University of California system in three years is raising fears among Asian-Americans that it will reduce their numbers on campus, where they account for a remarkable 40 percent of all undergraduates.
University officials say the new standards — the biggest change in UC
admissions since 1960 — are intended to widen the pool of high school
applicants and make the process more fair.
advocates, parents and lawmakers are angrily calling on the university
to rescind the policy, which will apply at all nine of the system's
They point to a UC projection that said
the new standards would sharply reduce Asian-American admissions while
resulting in little change for blacks and Hispanics, and a big gain for
"I like to call it affirmative action for
whites," said Ling-chi Wang, a retired professor at UC Berkeley. "I
think it's extremely unfair to Asian-Americans on the one hand and
underrepresented minorities on the other."
the single largest ethnic group among UC's 173,000 undergraduates. In
2008, they accounted for 40 percent at UCLA and 43 percent at UC
Berkeley — the two most selective campuses in the UC system — as well as
50 percent at UC San Diego and 54 percent at UC Irvine.
Asian-Americans are about 12 percent of California's population and 4 percent of the U.S. population overall.
new policy, approved unanimously by the UC Board of Regents in
February, will greatly expand the applicant pool, eliminate the
requirement that applicants take two SAT subject tests and reduce the
number of students guaranteed admission based on grades and test scores
alone. It takes effect for the freshman class of fall 2012.
President defends policy
Asian-Americans have charged that the university is trying to reduce
Asian-American enrollment. Others say that may not be the intent, but it
will be the result.
UC officials adamantly deny the intent is to
increase racial diversity, and reject allegations the policy is an
attempt to circumvent a 1996 voter-approved ban on affirmative action.
primary goal is fairness and eliminating barriers that seem
unnecessary," UC President Mark Yudof said. "It means that if you're a
parent out there, more of your sons' and daughters' files will be
Yudof and other officials disputed the internal study
that projected a drop of about 20 percent in Asian-American admissions,
saying it is impossible to accurately predict the effects. "This is not
Armageddon for Asian-American students," Yudoff said.
Francisco's Lowell High School, one of the top public schools in the
country, about 70 percent of the students are of Asian descent and more
than 40 percent attend UC after graduation.
"If there are
Asian-Americans who are qualified and don't get into UC because they're
trying to increase diversity, then I think that's unfair," said
16-year-old junior Jessica Peng. "I think that UC is lowering its
standards by doing that."
Doug Chan, who has a teenage son at
Lowell, said: "Parents are very skeptical and suspicious that this is
yet another attempt to move the goalposts or change the rules of the
game for Asian college applicants."