A recent study by two sociologists at the University of California at Davis, which looked at public and private undergraduate admissions at some 1,300 institutions from 1986-2003, concluded that the number of schools that considered race as a factor in admission declined sharply after 1995. After holding steady for nearly a decade, the proportion of public four-year institutions that acknowledged using race as a plus-factor in admission declined from 60 percent to 35 percent, while the percentage of private schools using preferences fell from 57 to 45. The studys authors conclude that litigation and the threat of litigation were factors in discouraging schools from taking race into account in admitting students. Many conservatives worried after the University of Michigan decisions that schools would feel justified in continuing to use racial preferences, but the opposite may be happening.
For at least two decades following the 1978 Bakke decision that first introduced diversity as a compelling state interest permitting race-based preferences in admissions, most elite colleges and universities boldly applied racial double-standards in determining whom to admit. In analyzing admissions data from nearly 70 public undergraduate and graduate programs, my Center for Equal Opportunity (CEO) found that the schools we studied routinely admitted black and Hispanic students with substantially lower grades and test scores. In many instances, being black or Hispanic did not appear simply to be one among many factors weighed by the schools, but the decisive factor. In a separate study, George Mason University professor David J. Armor found that at the University of Virginia in 2003, a black student was 106 times more likely to be admitted than a white student with the same grades and test scores, while at William and Mary Law School, the odds ratio favoring black students was 267 to 1. But in the wake of Grutter and Gratz, schools are struggling with how much weight they can give race or ethnicity without running afoul of the law.