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Redwood Bark

Redwood Bark

Construction students Taylor Bridges, Leila Fraschetti, Emmanuel Medina, Mary Coleman and John Kozubik (left to right) applaud their peers as they speak about their appreciation for their teachers and the resources they were provided.
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Abandoning affirmative action in higher education

My whole life I’ve been told that getting into college would be easy for me, even before I’d ever heard the words affirmative action. According to my parents, it seemed as if I was chosen at birth to attend a prestigious institution, due to being Hispanic. Yet, under the surface, I felt uneasy at the idea that my skin color granted me an edge over my classmates that had almost no advantages over me. I grew up comparatively wealthy, attended good schools and experienced the same troubles that many people of color face. Although the repeal of racial-based affirmative action early this year is a step back in the direction of American racial equity, it may provide the inertia for a great leap forward. Changing the college admissions process to look at wealth, and granting affirmative action based upon it, could increase fairness and possibly increase student achievement. 

Illustration by Bowen Rivera

To preface, racial affirmative advantage has provided people of color and our society as a whole with numerous advantages in the past. Affirmative action aimed to even out the playing field for groups that face increased struggles, traditionally people of color. Removing race from the equation makes it more difficult to grant opportunities to people of color who may not, on paper, compete with many white applicants. However, historically, racial affirmative action was a stopgap to avoid fixing other significant problems in the college admissions process. 

The most significant problem confronting equality in college admissions is the influence wealth has on getting into college. The massive college admissions scandal in 2019 among the ultra-wealthy provides the most egregious example, but thousands of students each year are granted significant but less noticeable advantages due to their wealth. If your parents have looked through your college applications, or taken you to tour a school across the country, you likely share these advantages. Many parents across the country don’t speak English, or have the ability to get off work to go on a college trip. I myself have certainly experienced the benefits of wealth in the college admissions process, including SAT tutoring, private college counseling and any other help that I’ve needed, all paid for by my parents. 

It’s safe to say that many Redwood students are in a similar position as I am. Even in 2017, a Bark survey found that 47 percent of Redwood students had or were considering getting a private college counselor to provide them help in creating the strongest application possible.

My proposal to solve this problem is quite simple: college admissions officers should take into consideration parental wealth and the benefits a student may receive from it. Admissions officials could simply request students to disclose the help they got on their admissions essays, and on standardized tests. No college or university has made a proactive effort to change their admissions system, even with the repeal of affirmative action taking away schools’ previous methods of creating diversity. Other authors have suggested the idea before, including Evan Mandery, a Harvard graduate and professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. In a Time Magazine Op-ed, Mandery describes a similar proposal to decrease the disparities in the amount of help students receive with applications, by having them write their personal statement essays in a similar environment to a standardized test, or to require students to document who has helped them with their essay.

Switching to wealth-based affirmative action will still provide benefits to people of color, as white Americans are historically much wealthier than people of color, largely due to greater opportunities and increased generational wealth. According to data from the Federal Reserve, white Americans possess 80 percent of the country’s wealth, and the average white household holds a net worth that is over 900,000 dollars greater than the average black household. Race and wealth have become unfortunately intertwined in American society, but a fair college admissions process provides the gateway for this to change.

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About the Contributor
Bowen Rivera
Bowen Rivera, Senior Staff Writer
Bowen Rivera is a senior at Redwood High School and a senior staff writer for the Bark. He enjoys writing, baking, and listening to music.