Do elite colleges discriminate against Asians?

Visit any suburban high school and talk to some seniors. You’ll be convinced that most of the Asian-Americans are shoo-ins for admission to elite colleges: either they’ve already been admitted or else they surely will be by April.

That’s the stereotype, at any rate.

But is it true?

One problem is that elite colleges have many perfectly qualified applicants for each one that they can accept, so they’re looking for students who stand out. According to one Asian girl:

An upper-middle class Asian with perfect grades who plays piano and violin, wants to study pre-medicine or computer science, and has parents who are dentists or engineers, too… simply does not stand out.

Is she just being paranoid, or do the statistics bear her out? An interesting article, ”Statistics Indicate an Ivy League Asian Quota,” appeared last month in the New York Times. The author is an admitted conservative, but let’s try to put aside any possible political agenda and just look at the statistics. The article cites a study and a graph from the National Center for Education Statistics, which I think is objective and non-partisan, showing that “ the percentage of Asian-Americans enrolled at Harvard fell by more than 50 percent over the last two decades,” even though the “college-age Asian population…roughly doubled between 1992 and 2011.” Here’s the relevant graph:

Clearly Harvard is not alone. The other Ivies are right in line with Harvard, and only Cal Tech admits Asians in rough proportion to their presence in the population. What do you think? Do the Ivies have an Asian quota?

Categories: Teaching & Learning