When former GOP Gov. Jeb Bush passed the “One Florida Initiative,” it effectively banned the use of affirmative action in the application processes of Florida state colleges and universities. It garnered criticism from not only Florida citizens, but also the U.S. Department of Education.
The negative effects of the ban, which was passed in February 2000, became more evident than ever after the Nov. 19 release of a study by Liliana M. Garces, a Harvard instructor and doctoral candidate, at the annual conference of the Association for the Study of Higher Education.
The study found that bans like the “One Florida Initiative” have resulted in a decrease of black, Hispanic and Native American enrollment in post-graduate degree programs in states with bans.
In the 2003 Supreme Court cases Gratz v. Bollinger and Grutter v. Bollinger, the court ruled against affirmative action techniques. According to its ruling, only admissions policies that consider ethnicity to be a part of a holistic evaluation that equally balances other qualities are constitutional.
Instead of banning all types of affirmative action, Florida leaders should allow state universities to use at least the minimal amount allowed by the holistic approach afforded to other states’ schools.
Some see affirmative action techniques as an unfair advantage, favoring minority populations while punishing students who work equally as hard.
However, it may be less of an unfair minority advantage than the loss of a long-standing white privilege.
Currently, Hispanics account for 16 percent of the U.S. population but only 6 percent of graduate students. Likewise, blacks account for 12 percent of the population with only 11 percent of graduate students. In total, both minorities only account for 4 percent of all science and engineering graduate students, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.
A study conducted by the University of California, Los Angeles found that college freshmen in 2006 came from families with a median income 60 percent higher than the national average, the highest in 35 years.
Meanwhile, black families earn a median income of $40,143 and Hispanic families earn a median income of $40,566 – significantly lower than the national median income of $61,355, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics from 2007.
Income does not only affect enrollment figures, but also academic success. A College Board report on 2009 SAT scores reviewed by the New York Times found a striking correlation between high-end SAT scores and the family’s income.
According to a 2008 analysis by the Orlando Sentinel, black and Hispanic undergraduate enrollment in Florida has also decreased in proportion to graduates since Florida banned affirmative action.
To uphold the promise of equality for all, a balanced playing field for college admissions requires techniques that can offset advantages obtained generations ago ethically and unethically.