Conservatives have argued that there’s no need for programs that sought to increase diversity on the most selective college campuses, but new data underscores that that’s far from reality.
A new survey shows that—wait for it—white students have an advantage over Black students in getting much needed help navigating college admissions. The survey, “Social Capital and College Choice: The Impact of Privilege on the College Selection Process”, polled more than 700 prospective college students on how privilege—or their perception of it, influenced their behavior when applying to colleges.
More than two-thirds of white high school students say they rely on family and friends for help with college admissions. By contrast, only 38% of Black students say their families give them admissions advice.
Many American appear to think that Black students benefit from college admissions offices that want to increase diversity on predominantly white campuses.
The survey’s findings refute that notion with anecdotes that won’t be a surprise to Black folks who have navigated college admissions for themselves, their kids or other relatives. Privilege, it suggests, hints gaps in knowledge and resources that impacts everything from what schools students apply for to how they make their final decisions once accepted.
“Where students turn for information about the college they are considering appears to be greatly dependent on their access to social capital. While race/ethnicity is often the most powerful predictor, family educational attainment has a significant and discrete effect,” the survey’s authors wrote. Put in plain English, coming from a family with more money, education and connections makes it easier for kids applying to college to navigate the process. That much is obvious, but what’s less unstated is that wealth and social connections are often—though not always—proxies for race.
The study’s authors wrote that because of the role that privilege still plays in students applying—let alone getting admitted—to college, now is the wrong time for institutions to pull back on their efforts to level the playing field.
“Findings make clear that colleges and universities will need to find more creative ways to reach students who are less likely to have social capital and work harder to ensure that these students understand what is distinctive about the institution and why these distinctions should matter to them as they choose where to apply,” they wrote.
Conservatives have argued for years that admissions programs that include diversity as a factor are unfair to white students. Groups working trying to dismantle Affirmative Action programs at Harvard and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are now trying a new tactic before the Supreme Court.