Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Affirmative Action Bans Reduced Graduate School Diversity

The Civil Rights Project at UCLA has released a new study finding that affirmative action bans in several states reduced the enrollment of Latino, black and Native American students in graduate programs.

It’s notable that the states cited have significant diversity among their populations–California, Florida, Texas and Washington. The report’s release comes as the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to hear the Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin case regarding race-based admissions.

Unlike this report, most studies on the impact of affirmative action bans tend to examine the impact on undergraduate admissions.

The research found that  since the bans, first-year graduate students enrolled who are black, Latino and Native American students dropped by an average of 12 percent. In engineering programs the drop was significantly greater, at 26 percent.

The study excludes international students and professional law and medical programs. The decline in natural sciences programs was 19 percent, in social sciences about 16 percent and about 12 percent in humanities. The research did not find a significant impact on business program enrollment.

Before the bans, graduate students of color made up about 9.9 percent of the overall enrollment of graduate degree programs. Their enrollment is now about 8.7 percent of the graduate student population. Students in the minority groups went from about 6.2 percent of engineering students to 4.6 percent of engineering students.

“Contrary to our nation’s best interests, these declines in the enrollment of students of color are taking place not only while the racial and ethnic diversity of the U.S. population is increasing but also when the U.S. is experiencing a chronic shortage of scientific manpower,” the organization says.

The study notes that the minority students tend to the score lower on standardized tests such as the GRE, hurting their admissions chances. It also questions whether the bans have affected students’ decisions whether to even apply to and enroll in programs in these states.

The study was conducted by George Washington University assistant professor Liliana Garces using data from the Council of Graduate School/Graduate Record Examination Survey of Graduate Enrollment and Degrees.

“These declines in racial and ethnic student body diversity create hurdles for universities, making it more difficult for them to further their educational missions and meet the economic needs of the country,” Garces said in a press release.

Four other states also ban affirmative action–Arizona, Michigan, Nebraska and New Hampshire.