Class No Substitute for Race in Preferences

New York, NY (June 24, 2013)—The National Association of Scholars today released a policy statement on class-based preferences in college admissions, titled “The Wrong Way to Admit the Other Half: Why We Oppose Class-Based Affirmative Action.”

According to the NAS, American policy makers and colleges and universities should reject class-based affirmative action and instead admit students based on their academic talent and determination. The NAS states, “What the nation needs is fairness and transparency in academic standards.  The same standards should apply to all in admission to college.” 

The NAS outlined three objections to class-based affirmative action:

  1. It would keep racial preferences in place by relabeling them.
  2. It would validate the idea that admission to college is a social good that is best guided by “experts” whose job it is to override academic standards in favor of steps intended to reshape American society.
  3. It would confuse the difference between admission to college and financial aid to attend college.

The national conversation about class-based affirmative action has become increasingly relevant in the run-up to the Supreme Court decision in Fisher v. University of Texas, which was announced today. Opinion leaders have promoted class-based preferences as the new model for increasing campus diversity. 

Peter Wood, president of the NAS and author of the book Diversity: The Invention of a Concept (Encounter, 2004), said, “A class-based system of preferences, like any group preference system, would serve the interests of socially activist administrators rather than the students they pretend to help. This would be another blow to transparency and fairness in college admissions. Americans would be better served by a system of higher education in which students could know in advance what the standards are.”

He added, “Empowering administrators to pursue their personal visions of social justice will compound the inequities in higher education. What we need is more financial support for highly capable but impoverished students.”

NAS chairman Herbert London said, “The National Association of Scholars has always stood for fair treatment of individuals in higher education. Its position on class-based preferences upholds that standard, and it ought to be heeded by all American colleges and universities.”

The statement is available at  

Peter Wood, President, National Association of Scholars
917-551-6770; [email protected]

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Image: Project SEAPHE

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