Affirmative Action Stalling Out

A recent article published in The New York Times entitled “Even With Affirmative Action, Blacks and Hispanics Are More Underrepresented at Top Colleges Than 35 Years Ago” utilizes U.S. Department of Education data to conclude that the percentages of minority enrollment at colleges and universities has fallen. In a cross-section of private and public schools, the data shows that African-Americans and Hispanics have seen declining shares in student bodies across the nation. However, enrollment of white students declined while Asian enrollment increased.

Different numbers for African-Americans and Hispanics are, in part, due to the growing gap between the college-aged populations within these groups and the percentage enrolled in postsecondary education. The Hispanic population, in particular, has grown greatly, causing their enrollment percentage to plummet relative to the total college-age population.

Another explanation for low enrollment, deals with overarching educational inequalities. For example, elementary and secondary schools with large black and Hispanic student populations are less likely to have high quality facilities and instruction. This disparity places members of these groups at a disadvantage from the get-go. As David Hawkins, an executive director at the National Association for College Admission Counseling, said in an interview with The New York Times, “A cascading set of obstacles all seem to contribute to a diminished representation of minority students in highly selective colleges.”


Anna Graff