In our Quota! thread, HWC writes:

Now, if you want to talk quotas, ask why Williams only has 9% Asian-American enrollment from a hugely qualified and eager applicant pool as evidenced by the percentages at:

Amherst 13%
Dartmouth 13%
Duke 13%
Princeton 13%
Brown 14%
Yale 14%
Swarthmore 16%
Columbia 16%
Harvard 17%
MIT 28%

It’s not the international enrollment at Williams that is out of step with the prevailing supply and demand at high-end US colleges. Looking at those numbers, it is hard to not speculate that Williams may have an “Asian-American quota”. I have a hard time imagining that Asian-Americans simply aren’t applying to the #1 ranked liberal arts college in the country.

A “current eph” replies:

Williams does not have a cap or limit on asian admits. The relatively low number of asian admits at Williams is reflective of the admissions pool rather than any particular Williams admission practice. Most likely this is due to a carry-over of Williams’ reputation as being a school for upperclass white boys combined with a relative lack of asian recruiting (compared to other minority groups recruiting) on the part of Williams’ admissions office.

HWC also writes:

I am skeptical about the claim of a small Asian-American applicant pool at Williams. I see no reason that its brand identity would scare off applicants any more than, say, Dartmouth’s nearly identical geographic location and market positioning. Particularly telling is that Williams’ percentage of Asian-Americans has declined
from its high-point in the early 1990s (11.2%). Asian-American enrollment at most elite colleges has skyrocketed in the last ten years. For example, Swarthmore’s 1995 Asian-American enrollment was exactly the same as Williams that year (10.8%). By 2004, Swarthmore’s percentage had increased to 15.8%; Williams’ had declined to
9.2%. Simple twist of fate, running against the demographic grain? Or, institutional guidance to the admissions office?

I think a likely explanation is that the admissions office at Williams has been given higher priorities than enrolling Asian-Americans, who tend to be more likely to be seriously academic and music oriented; less likely to be varsity athletes. When 28% of the incoming class consists of recruited athletes, as it did this year,
the Asian-American enrollment will tend to be lower. According to Williams’ Diversity Report data, 49% of the white students play varsity sports at Williams compared to 33% of the Asian-American students.

This is directly analagous to the “jew quotas”. If I recall, the argument was that the academically-focused Jewish students were not “well-rounded” enough (and that included being well-rounded enough for the hockey team).

It is also possible that the smaller aid budget for US students impacts Asian-American enrollment. This group, on average, qualifies for frequently for need-based aid (44% at Williams) than caucasian students (32% at Williams). This theory could be tested by looking at the relative yields for accepted Asian-American students.


1) I agree with “current eph”. I do not believe that Williams has a quota for Asian Americans. What would be the purpose of such a policy? Who could imagine someone like Morty being in favor of it?

2) I agree with HWC that this is an interesting topic. The percentage of Asian Americans at Williams is much smaller than I would have guessed. The difference between 13% at Amherst and 9% at Williams is not that large, but I am surprised by it none-the-less.

3) There are clearly plausible explanations with regard to Ivy League and city schools. Most every Chinese immigrant mother wants her daughter to go to an Ivy League school. (And I am allowed to make this observation!) But why would Amherst have 50% more Asians than Williams?

4) It would be great to have some data on this topic. What percentage of the total applicant pool at Williams is Asian? What is the average SAT score and/or Academic Rank of admitted Asian students?

Speculation, gossip and innuendo are welcome.

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