WASHINGTON – Policies in California, Texas and Florida that guarantee admission to public universities for top high school graduates do not make campuses more diverse, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights said Tuesday in a draft report.
Minority students in those three states are faring worse or no better than they were under affirmative action programs, according to the report.
“If percentage plans grow in popularity, it is inevitable that the number of minority students attending the most prestigious public universities will decrease,” Commission Chairwoman Mary Frances Berry said.
The percentage plan in California guarantees admission to the top 4 percent of graduates at high schools.
The report showed fewer blacks and Hispanics were admitted and enrolled in the University of California graduate law and medical admissions in 2001 than in 1995, the report said. The state voted to end race-based admissions in 1996, although the ban did not take effect until the 1998-99 school year.
Fewer blacks enrolled as undergraduates in 2001 than in 1995, as well. The number of Hispanics who enrolled grew slightly in that period. But they made up a smaller portion of the student body.
UC spokesman Hanan Eisenman disputed the commission’s analysis. He said the percentage of minority enrollment has increased for four straight years and now exceeds what it was before the policy barring race as a factor in admissions went into effect.
California and the civil rights commission used different base years in comparing affirmative action admissions to those under percentage plans.
“There was an initial drop, but since then we’ve been rebounding,” Eisenman said.
The state’s university system said last month that minority enrollment at the medical and law schools also is up over last year, but still is lower than it was before the passage of Proposition 209.
Florida’s state university system showed an increase in black and Hispanic students since the advent of Gov. Jeb Bush’s program to end affirmative action in 2000. But at the University of Florida, the most selective state institution, their numbers dropped.
In September, Bush’s office released figures showing that the number of minority students enrolling for the first time at state universities rose in the current school year, but not as fast as the overall growth in incoming students.
That means that minority enrollment dropped almost half a percentage point compared to last year’s incoming class, despite the overall increase.
Bush maintained the numbers show his plan is actually helping increase minority enrollment. “What I said was there would be more African-American and Hispanic students attending our university system,” he said in September. “Promise made, promise kept.”
In Texas, the report showed fewer blacks and Hispanics were admitted and enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin in 2001 than in 1996, before a federal court outlawed affirmative action in admissions at public universities.
Two years ago, the civil rights commission said percentage plans are “no substitute for strong race-conscious affirmative action.”
The new report said, “This is not to suggest that existing percentage plans are entirely without merit, but they are simply not enough.”