Affirmative Action for White College Students — The Oldest AA Programs

Inside Higher Education reports on a new book that shows there is still very widespread affirmative action that is mostly for white Americans—the huge number of programs at colleges and universities that offer the mostly white children of alumni/ae special preferences in admissions. Since in previous decades many had blatant discrimination in their admissions, their alumni/ae are mostly white at historically white institutions. These affirmative action programs get very few attacks from “principled conservatives.” White preferences are still fine in this society.

The account reviews a new book from the Century Foundation, titled Affirmative Action for the Rich, actually overwhelmingly the white affluent and rich:

What if the alumni preferences are significant? What if significant numbers of these alumni children wouldn’t have gotten in anyway? And what if — contrary to conventional wisdom — alumni preferences have no impact on alumni giving? Those what-ifs are all true, according to a book being published and released today by the Century Foundation (and distributed by the Brookings Institution Press). The book is a collection of research articles by scholars, journalists and lawyers arguing that much of what colleges have said over the years about alumni admissions preferences isn’t true — and that they amount to the book’s title: Affirmative Action for the Rich.

And then adds this:

Further, the elimination of affirmative action [for students of color] in several states (a shift Kahlenberg expects to spread), he says, makes it “hard to justify alumni preferences when you have gotten rid of help for minorities.” Finally, he noted, “we are going through a populist moment in this country, where there is anger at illegitimate preferences or unfair advantages for wealthy people, and it seems to me that this issue is one that’s plainly unfair and Americans get that.”

Actually the white majority is not populist in this regard, and does not see this as unfair. This country is founded in and maintained under the reality of such white power and privilege—and this almost never is questioned in the mainstream media. “Liberty and justice” for all?


  1. No1KState

    Do the ediotors make a distinction between rich whites and rich minorities?

    I know we’re in a “populist mood,” but most of the “angry populists” are well-to-do, educated white males who may have and whose children perhaps could benefit from these programs. And even if they don’t, their anger still seems to be aimed at people of color rather than at the rich, with some more anger towards Washington for bailing out the banks than Wall St CEOs for creating the crisis and not doing enough to correct it in the first place. I’m really not sure I see how far this book will go with the people the editor presumably expects to be interested in it.

    Moreover, I’m not sure I’m comfortable with comparing AA for the right to AA for minorities. Regular whites may think (but I doubt it) that preferences for heirs is unfair, but they’re still unlikely to join cause with minorities for whom they deem preferences to be unfair as well. I can hear Fox now – more class war from the liberal leftist media.

    So while I agree that these types of programs are inherently racially and gender biased, I’m not sure what raising the point does for the conversation.

  2. Seattle in Texas

    When I think about these programs that privilege children of alumni at traditionally white universities, I also think about the trend of many of those universities also deciding to not admit transfer students from community colleges…many of those who are first generation college students and/or non-traditional from disadvantaged backgrounds and so forth. From there, I think about the many who may graduate from high school, yet never even attempt to attend college for numerous reasons…much of which has to do with tracking and so forth. And then of course, students who don’t complete high school at all which is tied to both systemic and institutional racism and classism…of which contrary to popular belief, many of these students tend to be gifted in some way. Which means that through its inherently racist and classist structures and foundation, this society prevents much potential talent and knowledge from even having an opportunity to emerge in the first place, which means, it serves to only keep this American society more dumb and ignorant on the whole…even though it thinks it’s the greatest and smartest society in the world….

    But when thinking about the children of college alumni having those advantages and privileges that allow them the head start to get into college in the first place that non-alumni students do not have, I also think about the quality of the education that is distributed to different areas that begins with Head Start and Pre-school programs. Higher quality education in many respects is concentrated into white neighborhoods where the property taxes are higher and so forth, which by default already gives children attending those schools and programs an advantage from the early pre-school years through pre-college years. (disclaimer: by “better” I mean it in two ways–1. “better” prepared and equipped to enter into a traditionally white university as this type of training often involves teaching the student to operate through a white racial frame in terms of history, society, etc., as well as how to pass exams and function on an extrinsic reward system rather than intrinsic. 2. “better” in the sense of having better buildings, more qualified teachers, smaller classrooms, etc.).

    Anyway, with all the potential that is blocked from even having an opportunity of being discovered by both individuals and society, I just wanted to attached this article to accent the main post (I have some minor criticisms of the article, but it’s got good points too and I believe adds to the discussions above):

    • No1KState

      Just really quickly – the property tax is higher because the property value is higher, which is also due to racism in housing whereby the presence of minorities in the neighborhood brings down the market value of a house.

      I’m not sure what the rate is now in NYC, but I do remember reading in one of Jonathan Kozol’s books that the tax rate is higher in many urban areas than in suburban areas. So, contrary to stereotype, the poor do care about the education of their kids. (disclaimer: I’ll have to check again cause I can’t remember if it’s the tax rate that’s higher or the proportion of income that goes to property taxes that’s higher or both)

        • No1KState

          Just hoping to accent the good points you made. I didn’t know if you knew that about taxes being higher in urban areas.

          all the potential that is blocked from even having an opportunity of being discovered by both individuals and society

          Nothing “great” or “smart” about that. Can’t agree more.

          • Seattle in Texas

            Yeah, and I know they vary by even zip code which probably accounts for the urban areas…Douglass Massey come to mind here. Though, even with higher taxes in urban areas, I think of places like Detroit and of course the white flight phenomenon, etc. Then I’ve seen schools in the same zip code where the white schools are almost like private schools and the schools that serve the poor and racial minorities living in the same school zone are just of poorer quality all the way around…They manage to ensure an unequal distribution of wealth, cultural capital, opportunities, etc., whether it’s between institutions or within…. de facto segregation at your service….

  3. No1KState

    @ Seattle – Booster clubs. Booster clubs, PTAs. Donations . . .

    In my county, there’re 4 high schools. Only 2 have auditoriums that can seat 1k+ people. One is demonstrably a little more tricked out than the other – two automated turn-table smaller theaters for small shows or more space when necessary.

    Only 1 (which I’ll call district #1) has a swimming pool and a swim team. Which reminds me, one of my classmates I think got a small swim scholarship. I think.

    Anyway, it was all made possible by donations, as district 1
    has the most old money. Don’t get me wrong, there’re no millionaires that I know of. But if the structure of property taxes isn’t sufficient, and depending on property taxes alone, “your” kids would have the same pitiful education as “those’ kids – donations make a HUGE difference.

    And lets not forget the de facto segratation at work with academic tracking, either!


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