The New York Times covered racial enrollment trends at elite colleges. Key previous posts here, here, here and here. Let’s discuss these trends for 5 days. Today is Day 1.

Key plot:


Even after decades of affirmative action, black and Hispanic students are more underrepresented at the nation’s top colleges and universities than they were 35 years ago, according to a New York Times analysis.

The share of black freshmen at elite schools is virtually unchanged since 1980. Black students are just 6 percent of freshmen but 15 percent of college-age Americans . . .

Director of Admission and Financial Aid Liz Creighton ’03 would probably point out that the 15% number is not the relevant benchmark because, for starters, it does not adjust for the differential rate of high school graduation across races. Since only 69% of blacks graduate from high school (compared to 86% of whites), blacks do not make up anywhere near to 15% of the college-age high school graduates in America. Also relevant is that blacks are less likely that whites to take the achievement tests which Williams requires. They make up only 13% of the population in the SAT and the ACT. They are also much less likely to attend, through no fault of their own, high schools which provide adequate preparation for the rigors of a Williams education.

Put all this together and I bet that Williams would claim that our current 10% result (albeit only 8% for the class of 2020) is fairly similar to the population of high school seniors from which Williams draws its students. A similar argument would apply to the under-representation of Hispanics at Williams.

And that is hardly a surprise! Recall that Williams has an explicit goal — not an illegal quota! — to have a student body which “relects” or “mirrors” the racial breakdown of America.

Amherst [to its credit?] has a much smaller percentage of white students (51%) compared to Williams at 64%. Pomona does even better (?) at 40%. I suspect that this difference has nothing to do with the preferences of people like Creighton and Falk. They love white people no more than the folks who run Amherst and Pomona. (Contrary opinions welcome!) Even if all three schools have the same standards, Williams will always lose out because Pomona has a much easier time yielding Hispanics from California and Amherst probably does better among blacks because of its (much?) less rural location.

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