Score Gaps Stir Dispute Over Holistic Approach

Julia Erlandson, Daily Bruin (UCLA), May 2, 2007

When UCLA announced its decision last year to adopt a holistic admissions process, some expressed hope that the new system would help increase the number of underrepresented minorities admitted to the university.

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And while the number of underrepresented minorities admitted did increase overall, there is still a significant gap between the SAT scores and high school GPAs of black and Latino students compared to white and Asian students.

The persisting gap left some questioning whether the switch to holistic review had really improved UCLA’s admissions process.

In fall 2006, before UCLA switched to holistic admissions, black and Latino applicants’ average SAT scores were 255 and 246 points lower than the average for their white and Asian counterparts.

That gap seemed largely unaffected by holistic review—in fall 2007, black applicants’ SAT scores were on average 293 points lower than those of white and Asian students, and Latino applicants’ scores came up 249 points short.

Applicants’ GPAs told a similar story. In both fall 2006 and fall 2007, black students’ GPAs were about two-10ths of a point lower than white and Asian students’, and Latino students’ were about one-10th lower.

Ward Connerly, a former UC regent who sponsored anti-affirmative action legislation in several states, said he believes these disparities reflect a lack of fairness in UCLA’s admissions process.

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“It seems to me that there is something going on . . . that is allowing admissions people to weight non-academic factors to such an extent in favor of black students.”

Ana-Christina Ramon, research coordinator of UCLA’s Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies, which has conducted studies on the university’s admissions, said in order to understand the effect of holistic review, it is necessary to look at applicants in the context of their schools and communities.

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“Now, students are considered more in the context of the communities they come from,” she added. “That helps, then, in terms of looking at students; . . . did you get a 3.9 because your school only has one AP course?”

And admit rates for minority students from lower-performing high schools did increase after the implementation of holistic admissions.

Connerly said he was not surprised by the latest admissions figures.

“I’ve had my suspicions that UCLA was going to try and find a proxy for race to get the pressure off their backs,” he said. “As you look at the underperforming schools in California, . . . Asian kids are going to those schools to almost the same extent as black kids are.”

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