A modern spin on affirmative action practices could help universities build diversity on college campuses without the concern of race.
Senior Fellow Richard Kahlenberg of the Century Foundation said class-based affirmative action instills more diversity and fairness than just considering race and ethnicity alone.
According to a report by Kahlenberg, class-based affirmative action includes looking at parental income, the status of the student’s neighborhood and parental education level.
United States Supreme Court case Fisher vs. University of Texas at Austin brought the public back to the controversy of affirmative action in 2008 when Abigail Fisher claimed she was denied undergraduate admission because she was white.
The Supreme Court's decision could end race-based affirmative action, affecting both public and private universities, Kahlenberg said.
According to the Journal of College Admission, affirmative action policies were created during the civil rights movement to improve employment and education opportunities for minority groups and women.
Dean of Admission Ray Brown said the university practices affirmative action and does consider race and ethnicity, among many factors, in the admission process.
Gender, geographic location and socioeconomic status are also taken into consideration, he said.
The university’s fall 2012 records indicate 16.9 percent of first-year students are minorities. Out of those 1,853 students, 79.4 percent are white.
“We can get more diversity from a white male from Mineral Wells than we can from an African American male from Highland Park,” Brown said. “Socioeconomic status is far more important than race.”
Senior entrepreneurial management major Macy Pulliam said she values diversity and thinks the university’s student body could benefit and learn about diversity from different levels of socioeconomic class.
“It’s important to give everyone a chance at a higher education, regardless of what their circumstance is,” Pulliam said.
Brown emphasized the importance he places on applicants’ character when considering them for admission. As a private sector, the university is given more latitude from the government in its decision-making.
The admissions staff strives to look at each applicant individually and recognizes how he or she “has handled the hand life has dealt,” Brown said.
Brown said he realizes not all high schools offer advanced placement courses and many students can only afford to take the SAT or ACT once.
“You have to be sensitive to differences in people,” Brown said. “If you treat everyone the same, you treat nobody fairly.”
Fischer vs. University of Texas at Austin remains before Supreme Court justices. Kahlenberg saidt the court’s decision could limit practices of affirmative action for private institutions that receive federal funds.