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Research Report

Alternative Paths to Diversity: Exploring and Implementing Effective College Admissions Policies

Authors

  • Gary Orfield

    Editor, Corresponding author
    1. UCLA Graduate School of Education and the Civil Rights Project at UCLA, Los Angeles, CA
    • Corresponding author: Gary Orfield, E-mail: orfield@law.ucla.edu

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Abstract

Report Number: ETS RR-17–40

1. Social Science and the Future of Affirmative Action: The Supreme Court's Fisher II Decision and New Research

Gary Orfield

UCLA Graduate School of Education and the Civil Rights Project at UCLA, Los Angeles, CA

The Supreme Court has established the parameters within which universities can practice race-conscious affirmative action for college admissions in a series of decisions beginning in l978. The key issues concern the educational impact of campus diversity and whether or not it is necessary to give some consideration to students' race into order to produce a diverse student body in highly selective colleges. The most recent decision, Fisher v. University of Texas II, taken in June 2016, raised the question of whether there was a viable nonracial alternative policy that would produce the level of diversity for universities to realize the benefits of diverse learning experiences that are a central goal of the great majority of selective colleges and universities. This report explores the issues before the court and the continuing responsibilities of universities under the decision and introduces a series of new studies, most commissioned by a collaboration between the Civil Rights Project and ETS—three of which are included in this volume. The study concludes that the best evidence from the most recent social science studies and research syntheses show that the major proposed alternative policies are far less successful than affirmative action and thus do not meet the Court's definition of feasible alternatives. This conclusion led the Court to approve affirmative action.

Keywords Affirmative action; college admissions; college diversity; civil rights; percent plans; SES diversity

Corresponding author: Gary Orfield, E-mail: orfield@law.ucla.edu

The future of affirmative action and diversity in American colleges now hinges on the question of whether there is a practical college admissions process with no consideration of a student's race that would produce racially diverse colleges. The basic premise of colleges choosing affirmative action is that it is essential to produce diversity for highly selective colleges. Whether it can continue, however, depends on the U.S. Supreme Court. Since 1968, the legality of considering race as one of a number of criteria for college admissions has rested on the Court's rulings in three great constitutional decisions, the 1978 decision in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, Grutter v. Bollinger in 2003, and Fisher v. University of Texas in June 2016. Each decision supported limited affirmative action by a single vote for the purpose of increasing campus diversity. The Fisher case triggered two decisions, Fisher I, in 2013, and the 2016 decision Fisher II. Fisher I required the courts to carefully judge whether there was a feasible nonracial alternative that would produce the diversity that is necessary to obtain the educational benefits for all students. Fisher II ruled that the University of Texas met that requirement and strongly reaffirmed the legitimacy of affirmative action under those requirements. Fisher II held that the University of Texas's trial of alternatives and careful consideration of the issues showed that race-conscious affirmative action satisfied the Court's requirements. The decision was very reassuring for campuses using affirmative action because it clarified standards for making this judgment, but the decision underlined the requirement that colleges document and periodically review their plans showing why affirmative action was needed. Nothing in the decision says that colleges must directly try many alternatives, although research shows that many colleges using affirmative action are actually also already implementing race-neutral alternatives simultaneously, as Texas has done. A very important resource for colleges documenting the necessity of using affirmative action is the best available research showing whether the major race-neutral plans actually work. This volume provides important research on this key factual question that can help develop and legitimize the plans of American colleges.

The Supreme Court said in Fisher I that the courts could not defer to the universities on the issue of color-blind alternatives but must make their own judgment about whether there is a feasible nonracial way to create a sufficiently diverse student body. This is, of course, an empirical question whose answer in the courts under the standards of Fisher II will determine the outcomes of pending cases against Harvard University and the University of North Carolina and any future challenges. Courts are not well equipped to produce and analyze the evidence on such issues, particularly if the evidence in an individual case about one student becomes the basis for a decision impacting the entire country. The Fisher case did not even have an actual trial, even on the claims of Ms. Fisher, but was decided on the basis of the pleadings, so the record lacks what would have been shown by testimony, cross-examination, and the submission of more exhibits and data as the trial proceeded. Fisher II gives colleges more guidance and support but still requires well-documented plans from colleges.

In the courts, such a question is decided through a process very different than the process in the research community (Lempert & Sanders, 1986; Murphy, Pritchett, Epstein, & Knight, 2005; Rosen, 1972). There is no sample of institutions followed statistically over time, and there are no experiments to see what variables have what impact. The lawyers argued primarily about the information that happens to have been entered into the trial record by either the attorneys for the young woman, Ms. Fisher, who claims she was discriminated against, or by the University of Texas, which she sued. Only evidence brought forward by the lawyers for the two sides are entered in the court record, and groups such as national civil rights organizations—unless they become parties—have no voice in the proceedings (Abraham, 1998). Colleges need to be prepared.

We are basically living under policies enunciated by the Supreme Court in the 1978 Bakke decision, which were reaffirmed in the Grutter and Fisher II decisions. In both Fisher decisions, the Court reaffirmed the legitimacy of educational diversity as a sufficiently compelling interest to justify the consideration of race if there is no other feasible way to attain it. Lawyers for Ms. Fisher in Fisher II claimed that the University of Texas already had a workable alternative, the percent plan, making any consideration of race unconstitutional. After the Supreme Court, in a rare step, took the case back for another examination of oral arguments in December 2015, some feared it signaled the end of affirmative action, but the Court held that the University of Texas's conclusion that the Top Ten Percent Plan (TTPP) had not produced adequate campus and classroom diversity and that holistic review that actually fostered richer diversity in a fair way was legitimate grounds for continuing its policy.

The question about feasible alternatives is basically a complex social science question about the likely impact of both the Texas TTPP—admitting top students from any high school—and other hypothetical alternatives. The Court noted, for example, that the university already gave special attention to low-income students. The Court's ruling impacts all colleges. Traditionally, the Supreme Court relies very heavily on factual evidence on the trial record because the trial judge is the basic finder of fact (hearing the testimony and cross-examinations on evidence and deciding what exhibits of evidence to admit to the trial record). The higher courts do not hold additional hearings on the facts and are expected to reach conclusions about the relevant legal principles, although the high courts can overturn what they see as seriously erroneous findings of fact. This means that documentation available for a trial against any challenge is very important.

With a very high-stakes and severely flawed case before the Court, five of whose nine members had never voted for affirmative action, there was great concern in higher education. Major higher education and national research organizations tried to attract the Court's attention by filing amicus briefs with the Court, many citing evidence from research. Scores of briefs were filed, the great majority, 67 briefs, supporting the University of Texas (Adams, 2015). As state prohibitions of affirmative action had produced serious declines in access for students of color, particularly at highly selective campuses, higher education groups felt an urgent need for the best data, both for the courts and for universities trying to decide what to do. The Fisher II decision relied strongly on both the experience at the University of Texas and the research data the university submitted. The outcome, of course, was affected by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, an affirmative action opponent.

Producing basic research on possible nonracial alternatives to affirmative action was the goal of the collaboration between the Civil Rights Project and ETS, which commissioned the studies included in this report. These studies were commissioned before the Supreme Court decided to hear the Fisher case again as an aid to colleges thinking about the requirement that they seriously consider race-blind alternatives to affirmative action. The reports were intended not for the Supreme Court battle that developed later but to give the best possible research-based evidence for colleges trying to respond to the Court's requirement of careful consideration of feasible alternatives. The draft reports were discussed at a round table in Washington, DC, and were substantially redrafted. Now that the Court has decided the Fisher II case and clarified the law on affirmative action, these reports remain directly relevant for a great number of campuses that are using holistic review, including race, as one of many factors.

Higher education leaders know that before affirmative action, leading universities had very small, token enrollments of Black students and even smaller numbers of Latino and American Indian students. The faculties were overwhelmingly White. A total of 19 states had operated separate public colleges for African American students for generations, and there were scores of private Black colleges, many founded by religious groups to provide opportunities in the South where the door to higher education had been shut. Following the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954, it was clear that it was unconstitutional to require the segregation of public colleges, but very little was done to change most of those colleges until the 1964 Civil Rights Act became law and created powerful sanctions and enforcement tools to end discrimination at all institutions receiving federal funds (Grofman, 2000). In contrast to hundreds of school desegregation orders, the courts did little to change college patterns in most states and almost nothing outside the South.

The movement to integrate selective colleges outside the South came from within the academic world, which had been deeply affected by the urgency of the struggles of the civil rights revolution and the social crises and upheavals in the major cities, as well as intense student protests. The change was voluntary but reflected a recognition of long-term failure to integrate and involved various forms of targeted outreach and admissions of a more diverse student body (Bowen & Bok, 1998). The colleges had little expertise in such changes and felt their way forward, with many well-intentioned missteps. A half-century later, after a massive transformation of the racial composition of the college-aged population and amid many political conflicts, the great majority of selective colleges continue to rank diversity as one of their highest goals and have race-conscious policies to pursue it, but the controversies and struggles over the legality of their methods continue (Kennedy, 2013; Skrentny, 1996). During the Civil Rights era, there was widespread acceptance of the proposition that only serious race-conscious plans could make major progress, but college efforts were increasingly attacked as the political mood changed, and the Supreme Court was changed by the appointees of President Nixon, President Reagan, and both Presidents Bush (Coyle, 2014; Greenberg, 2007). The question of whether affirmative action may continue is determined nationally by the Supreme Court, so a negative decision would make race-conscious policies a constitutional violation and lead to the cutting off of federal funds to any college violating the order. The question of whether affirmative action actually continues is decided by individual campuses and university systems and, in some instances, by the state governments or referenda within the parameters set by the courts.

These studies attempt to answer the central question in the current debates: Is there a workable, nonracial way to achieve diversity without any consideration of a student's race in the admissions process? After America's most selective universities decided in the mid-1960s to become significantly racially integrated for the first time in their histories, it was not clear what would work. Because students choose where to apply and are not assigned to colleges, as they usually are for public high schools, simply reassigning students was impossible. In the 19 states with separate Black public colleges, the enactment of the 1964 Civil Rights Act created an obligation to take positive steps to desegregate campuses, and plans were developed during the 1970s, but enforcement dropped in the 1980s (Litolff, 2007; Williams, 1987).

Outside the South, the initial voluntary efforts focused on targeted outreach, recruitment, and special programs and special consideration in admissions and aid. The Great Society's war on poverty had created some programs, including Upward Bound, to help prepare students of color from weak, segregated schools for college, and the higher education legislation from the mid-1960s to the early 1970s provided substantial funding for need-based aid for students from low-income families. The passage of federal and state laws against job discrimination and the requirement for affirmative action employment plans for federal contractors called attention to the need to recruit faculty and staff on a broader basis. In most colleges, student affirmative action was a purely voluntary effort, and no federal authority was issuing directions or regulations. Major institutional and cultural change is never easy, and inevitably, mistakes were made, and students whom colleges were not prepared to deal with were admitted. As the Black Power and other assertive movements developed, urban riots generated tension; the country was shocked by the assassination of Dr. King; conservative federal administrations took power; and there were conflicts and uncertainty. But affirmative action continued, producing what was usually a modest level of diversity.

The issue became very controversial as the conservative political reaction to the civil rights revolution of the 1960s gained strength, and the Supreme Court was transformed by the late 1980s with a majority who were critical of civil rights and who made decisions limiting previous policies. Although both the Court and civil rights officials had concluded in the 1960s that case-by-case enforcement was far too limited to address entrenched racial inequalities and that race-conscious policies and plans were needed for substantial changes, conservative administrations were increasingly skeptical, claiming that such efforts amounted to discrimination against Whites. As economic changes made college education far more crucial for middle-class status, and college admissions became much more competitive at leading institutions, the conflict over limited spaces grew. Conservatives claimed that civil rights advocates had gone too far and were now reverse-discriminating and that students should be admitted solely on merit (often meaning test scores), not racial preferences (meaning any consideration of race; Glazer, 1975; Skrentny, 1996).

Although the great majority of selective campuses concluded that without intentional strategies to identify, recruit, and admit students of color, they would not achieve substantial diversity, they were challenged in politics and in the courts. When the federal government fought to implement desegregation of southern campuses in the 1970s, there was major political pushback against the Carter administration's efforts (Hill, 1985; Williams, 1987).

The Law

Bakke was a decision by a Court so deeply split that there were three different opinions, and the case was decided by the ninth judge, Lewis Powell, a Virginian appointed by President Nixon. He rejected the university's arguments about the historic absence of students of color and the needs of minority communities for doctors who understood them, but he upheld limited positive policies for the integration of colleges for the purpose of enriching educational diversity, which improved education for all by considering race a plus factor among the various considerations in choosing a new class for a college. Affirmative action survived in a more limited form with a more limited justification. The decision dramatically limited the arguments that could be used to justify the legality of affirmative action. Powell rejected arguments about general discrimination in society. Powell, a Harvard graduate, relied on the history of Harvard's long outreach for students from all areas and many kinds of talents and the report of a Harvard faculty committee on the educational value of such diversity.

In the decades following Bakke, there was very little research on the benefits of student diversity for the educational process, in part because, unlike public school integration, it was not justified by the Court as an educational remedy for discrimination but as a general value for all students. Many colleges and universities and researchers assumed that the educational benefits were obvious, and the important questions were about how to make it work better.

The issues became much more urgent after affirmative action was forbidden in the nation's two largest states in 1996. Opponents had failed in Congress and state legislatures to defeat the affirmative policy of universities but found that if they could shape the questions as they saw them, they could win in some state referenda. In California, in 1996, the voters adopted Proposition 209, the Civil Rights Amendment, which wrote into the state constitution a ban on affirmative action, described by the measure as racial preference (Chavez, 1998). In Texas, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit decided in the Hopwood v. Texas decision of 1996 that affirmative action was unconstitutional. With the sudden prohibition in the two largest states, which contained the majority of all U.S. Latinos and large groups of other minorities, it became apparent that the issues were heading toward the Supreme Court.

The intense division over the issue and a likely Supreme Court challenge stimulated the launching of a number of empirical studies addressing the great questions that would come before the Court in a major decision. The University of Michigan, which became the target of the cases that went to the Supreme Court, invested in major research studies by leading faculty members. The Civil Rights Project and other research groups commissioned new research by scholars across the country. A series of Supreme Court decisions on other issues had set up two key legal tests for affirmative action. The Court held, in a series of decisions beginning in the late 1980s, that decisions made on the basis of race were inherently suspect even if they were intended to create benefits for minorities, so there had to be proof of a “compelling interest” before it could even be considered. (The Warren Court had treated decisions considering race to achieve integration to be fundamentally different than those fostering segregation.) Given the Bakke decision, the compelling interest could only be proof that diversity actually produced measurable educational gains for all groups of students. The second issue that required research was the question of whether there was any feasible alternative to considering race that would produce the diversity needed to attain the educational benefit. Obviously, that would require evidence on the efficacy of proposed alternatives, including the Texas TTPP for admissions created for the University of Texas by state legislation after the Hopwood ban on affirmative action. That became the central issue in Fisher.

A quarter century after Bakke, in 2003, the Court decided two cases challenging the University of Michigan. One, Gratz v. Bollinger, rejected Michigan's practice in undergraduate admissions in which the university simply added some points to the admissions formula for racial diversity as it did for other diversity factors in undergraduate admissions. That was too mechanical a consideration of race, the Court decided, and the college was forced to rework its plan. However, in the Grutter v. Bollinger decision, the Court approved of the University of Michigan Law School's practice of considering each student holistically, with race being only one of many factors in admissions decisions. This became the model for selective campuses across the United States. This essentially meant that large public universities that believed affirmative action was necessary had to adopt the more costly individual review model used by elite private colleges.

A great deal of empirical research had been conducted by the time the Court heard the Michigan cases. The University of Michigan had mobilized researchers, including Professor Patricia Gurin (1999), to examine actual consequences of racial contact in the classrooms and campus lives. A number of other scholars had conducted a variety of studies of key issues, and several books had appeared containing important recent research. There were a number of briefs filed in the case by scholars and scholarly associations as well as important briefs by business and military leadership. The Grutter opinion relied heavily on research and the briefs in reaffirming the basic legal principles of Bakke, including a book that grew out of the Civil Rights Project conferences and commissioned research and the brief of the American Educational Research Association, which brought together evidence from many social science studies. The opinion affirmed that there were educational benefits for all, a compelling interest justifying a consideration of race among many factors. The decision also expanded the justification to include the preparation of leaders with skills to better operate leading military and business institutions in our multiracial society and the preparation of our citizens for good operation of our democracy. The Court pointed to the scientific evidence on the educational value of diversity that had been published in recent years, citing specific books and social science briefs.

These studies the Court relied on showed that students who experienced diverse classes developed abilities to understand differing perspectives, that they developed abilities to communicate more effectively across lines of social division, that they often developed new perspectives about their own profession, and that the students who were admitted through affirmative action programs had great success in highly challenging institutions and tended to make large contributions in their later professional lives, among other key findings.

In the Grutter decision, the Court relied on research on the alternatives, including studies of the Texas TTPP, and the Court's respect for the universities' autonomy in accepting Michigan's argument about the lack of a feasible alternative. The research was still limited.

Although the Grutter decision held that affirmative action, under these rules, should be accepted for at least 25 years, after the replacement of Justice O'Connor, the decision's author, the Court took another case just nine years later, the Fisher v. University of Texas case. In its 2013 decision, the Court accepted the value of diversity but sent the case back to the lower courts to determine whether there were workable nonracial alternatives. The Court basically affirmed the compelling interest in diversity in its 7–1 decision but returned the case to the lower federal courts, ending the deference to universities on the narrow tailoring issue, requiring them to make an independent judgment about alternatives. When the Supreme Court sent the Fisher case back to the Court of Appeals, many thought that the court would send it down to the district court for further proceedings with new testimony and evidence to strengthen the record on the key issues—whether there were feasible alternative ways to achieve diversity and whether the Texas TTPP was already accomplishing enough to satisfy this need. The Court of Appeals, however, decided that there was already enough evidence to support the university's policy and that no new district court proceedings were needed over the objection of the University of Texas, which wished to present more evidence. It decided by a 2–1 majority that the university had adequately considered the alternatives and that its plan was legal. Although it is rare for the Supreme Court to consider the same case twice, the Court accepted an appeal in June 2015, and the case was argued again before the Supreme Court on December 9, 2015. Justice Kennedy, the key member whose views determined the outcome given the well-established positions of the other justices, was frustrated. He complained that the Court was again hearing an argument on the same inadequate evidence that was in the record when it was heard before. The case had been sent back for clearer answers, but there had been no new fact gathering.

The first Fisher decision meant that colleges and courts needed to think carefully about the possibility of a nonracial solution. Long before the Supreme Court took the case back for a second look, a joint project of the Civil Rights Project and ETS, directed by Professor Orfield, was created to commission leading researchers to explore the major alternatives to affirmative action in order to aid colleges and universities across the country in meeting their obligation to consider feasible alternatives by providing the best available evidence on the major alternatives that had been suggested—the Texas TTPP, affirmative action on the basis of socioeconomic status (SES), instituting a variety of outreach and student preparation strategies, or finding some other set of admissions variables that would produce a diverse class without any consideration of race. We also wanted to review the most extensive record of alternative approaches, the two-decade experience of the University of California, which experimented with all of the major alternatives. We surveyed the field and identified the researchers with the best track records willing to undertake these tasks and commissioned new studies to help answer the question. These studies were presented in draft form at a roundtable of education experts in Washington, DC, in August 2013, long before the Supreme Court took the Fisher case again in June 2015.

Before introducing this research, it is important to know what kinds of plans U.S. universities and colleges are actually using and what techniques and policies their admissions experts think are needed. Colleges often proclaim their commitment to diversity but do not discuss the specifics of how they seek it, particularly given the sensitivity of the issue in a time of politics and threatened lawsuits. In the world of higher education, where there is a great emphasis in general on research and expansion of knowledge, there is too little shared knowledge on these key issues that help shape university communities themselves. In two decades of active interest in these issues, there has been little systematic knowledge of what colleges are doing. The issues became even more sensitive with the announcement of a systematic legal attack on affirmative action and the filing of cases against the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Harvard (Sullivan, 2014). Of course, college attorneys often want to protect information.

The best way to obtain this information was with the support of major higher education organizations and scholars urging cooperation and guaranteeing anonymity to participating institutions, but it was still very difficult. This survey, sponsored by the American Council on Education, the Civil Rights Project, and the research arm of Pearson, went out to colleges across the country with the National Association of College Admissions Counseling and the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, with the College Board actively supporting the effort. It was overseen by an advisory committee of leading researchers (Espinosa, Gaertner, & Orfield, 2015). Despite all this effort, the survey's response rate was low, but information was collected from a very large number of campuses. It cannot claim to be a scientific sample, but it is by far the best data that exist or are likely to exist for the foreseeable future—338 colleges enrolling a total of 2.7 million students.

Most admissions offices reported that they were well aware of the first Fisher decision; 89% said that they were either familiar of very familiar with the decision, but very few of those practicing affirmative action had abandoned it—only three colleges in the entire large sample. The survey showed that a large majority of selective universities responding had affirmative action plans and did consider race in admissions decisions. About 70% of the surveyed selective schools in the states where affirmative action had not been outlawed were using it (Espinosa et al., 2015).

The survey indicated that colleges saw race-conscious and race-neutral policies not as fundamental alternatives but rather as complements (Espinosa et al., 2015). Many critics of affirmative action pose affirmative consideration of poverty as a viable and likely alternative, suggesting that if race consciousness in holistic admissions processes were outlawed, colleges would turn to affirmative admission for low-income students to produce diversity. (Whether it would in fact work is analyzed in several of the reports in this volume.) The survey showed that campuses did not see this as an either–or proposition. Contrary to the assumption that those that did not pursue race-conscious policies would be more likely to favor low-income students, the opposite turned out to be true. Those with affirmative action policies were more likely to also give special consideration to low-income applicants; 86% of the schools that considered race had targeted recruitment for low-income students, and 74% gave them special consideration in admissions, compared to only 27% of the schools without affirmative action. Schools that saw racial diversity as a benefit also worked for SES diversity. It was usually either both or neither. That meant that the probable impact of ending affirmative action would not be the substitution of a different approach but the elimination of what they saw as an essential part of a multidimensional strategy. Looking at a number of policy options studied, the report concluded that “among the 338 institutions in our study, those that do not consider race are also less likely to use a broad array of diversity strategies, a finding that holds across level of selectivity” (Espinosa et al., 2015, p. 30). The report by Patricia Gandara and William Kidder in this volume explores the many ways in which the University of California has pursued all of the major alternatives during the two decades of the state's affirmative action ban.

The fact that the large majority of colleges with affirmative action policies were already simultaneously implementing special policies to support the enrollment of low-income students and other nonracial impacts is very important in terms of the standards set in Fisher II. In that decision, the Court praised and relied on such efforts by the University of Texas as showing a serious effort to document that they were only relying on race to the extent necessary.

A survey can tell a lot about strategy and institutional values, but it cannot say what will actually work. The colleges surveyed, for example, rated the Texas TTPP as one of the least effective alternatives for producing campus diversity, but that is only their opinion (Espinosa et al., 2015). The question is, of course, an empirical question that is studied in a variety of ways in the report by Stella Flores and Catherine Horn in this volume. One reason why Texas was targeted in the Fisher cases was that it had the most extensive percent plan in the country. In Fisher II, the Court accepted the University of Texas's conclusion that the Texas TTPP was both excessively rigid and inadequate to meet the university's needs.

There is, of course, no way to scientifically test all the alternatives directly without randomized experiments in many campuses. There are also practical limits to some of the alternatives. If a college decided to admit only low-income students, for example, it would be very likely to get a better representation of students of color given the income distribution in the United States, but colleges would confront many problems, such as the far lower average academic achievement records of poor students and a huge loss of tuition income that very few colleges could afford because most depend on tuition for a very significant part of their budgets and have limited financial aid funds. Similarly, if a college were to give a large preference to native Spanish speakers, it would be very likely to have a substantial increase in its share of Latino students, although it would confront many of the same problems. Most of the best prepared students are White or Asian, from strong high schools, and from middle- or upper-class families. The practical question is whether there are methods at a feasible cost other than considering race and ethnicity that would produce a similar level of diversity without forcing a radical transformation of the entire college or pushing it toward financial crisis or loss of other basic goals. In the first Fisher decision, the Court recognized that an alternative must be administratively feasible.

In a half-century of discussion of voluntary diversity policies, only a few alternatives have emerged, and they are the subject of this report. The significant alternatives are the Texas TTPP pioneered at the University of Texas and adopted by several states (Chapa & Lazaro, 1998), the idea of affirmative action on the basis of student poverty rather than race, and the creation of a variety of recruitment, targeted, precollege training, and support and recruitment programs that have been widely used on campuses where state laws forbid affirmative action. A final possibility discussed here might be called the kitchen sink alternative—simply scan all available variables and see if any set of them is sufficiently related to racial and ethnic diversity that it would produce the diversity desired without any direct consideration of race.

We are publishing here three of the four new studies commissioned in this project, but we will first discuss one that was developed by Sean Reardon and associates and released as an issue brief by this project (Reardon, Baker, Kasman, Klasik, & Townsend, 2015), which is to be published separately in a scholarly journal.

Does the Percent Plan Work?

The immediate issue in the Fisher case was whether the University of Texas's TTPP has succeeded in producing the diversity necessary to meet the compelling educational needs of the university. The argument was fundamentally based on looking at the number of students of color enrolled before affirmative action was stopped in 1996 and the growth of minority enrollment under the Texas TTPP. The lawyers for Ms. Fisher added together the number of Latino and Black students enrolled under the Texas TTPP and said that there was sufficient diversity. In other words, they argued, the university should recognize that it had succeeded and cancel affirmative action, which—under those circumstances, they said—discriminated against White students. This is the question that Stella Flores of New York University and Catherine Horn at the University of Houston examined in their report in this volume. They analyzed the three different statewide percent plans (the others are in Florida and California), reviewed the very extensive research over two decades in Texas, and examined the literature on the many forces that have been shown to influence college choice. They pointed out that the question cannot be answered without carefully analyzing the changing demography of young people in the state being examined; they considered the efficiency (or feasibility) of alternatives to affirmative action, and they made suggestions to educators and the courts about how to address the underlying issues.

The percent plan has been extensively researched for years by a number of scholars, including a massive multiyear analysis by Princeton University researchers and a series of major studies by Stella Flores and Catherine Horn (Harris & Tienda, 2012; Horn & Flores, 2003; Long & Tienda, 2008). The Flores and Horn report in this volume summarized and added to previous research on the subject, which has been one of the most researched issues in higher education policy.

The study (Flores & Horn, this volume) concluded that the claimed success of the percent plan is an illusion in two ways. The growth in the share of Latinos at the University of Texas is basically not the product of the plan but of the large decline in the White share of young Texans and a massive increase in the share of Latino high school graduates in the state in the last two decades. The probability of Latino applicants gaining access to the University of Texas has actually declined rather than increased. The increased numbers are not the product of the Texas TTPP but of the fact that even a declining chance of success of a very rapidly growing population produces rising numbers (Flores & Horn, this volume). The plan has not been successful in achieving a significant representation of Blacks on campus, even though the Black share of young Texans has remained constant as the White share has fallen sharply. The Texas TTPP, they concluded, has had no significant impact, even though it was augmented by special partnerships between the university and a number of highly impoverished, heavily non-White high schools. Even with a very large increase in Texas TTPP-eligible students of color and special efforts by the University of Texas to offer targeted scholarships at high-poverty, heavily non-White high schools, eligible White and Asian students were far more likely to actually enroll at the state's top campuses. Blacks, who had been most discriminated against historically, had the lowest probability.

The Texas TTPP may well confront increasing pressure in the years to come as already intense demand for the University of Texas at Austin grows to be much more difficult to manage. The plan has already been cut back to the top 7% because it could have filled the entire class and had students left over if the university had continued to guarantee that all students in the top 10% (and meeting academic preparation requirements) were actually admitted. The plan has been capped at 75% of freshman admissions already. As time passes and the number of students applying continues to grow, it would be likely to become an ever smaller fraction of top high school students even if nothing else would change. The University of Texas System chancellor Bill McRaven urged the state's Higher Education Coordinating Board in January 2016 to terminate the Texas TTPP, saying that it denied the university the flexibility to admit and recruit the very best students by automatically admitting three fourths of the entering class primarily on the basis of their rank within their high schools, no matter how weak the schools might be. The pressure to do this, he said, was intensified by a drive in Texas to raise the standing of its leading university, which did not rank among the nation's top 50 universities, although Texas has the second largest population. McRaven claimed that being able to admit the students the university selected would put the university in a position to be more selective. He continued to press the issue in the face of questions and criticisms from University of Texas student groups and some legislators (Wong, 2016). Administrators who want the most qualified diverse student body see a serious tension in the plan (Watkins, 2016). Many Texas supporters, however, see it as the reed they leaned on between 1996 and 2003, when affirmative action was banned by the courts, and the plan was the major alternative.

The Texas TTPP is a plan to preserve some diversity by creating a mechanical process based on segregation that takes away from the university the ability to select the students of all races it thinks would add the most to the university. The plan provides students of color because the state high schools are highly segregated, and there are many schools where the top 10% are non-White. The Texas TTPP bases admissions on a standard that varies among more than 1,000 Texas high schools. An admissions plan should not punish Black and Latino students able to attend integrated schools or deny the university's admissions experts from admitting students who would add a great deal to the class. Several studies have shown that replacing a holistic admissions policy with a top 10% plan nationwide would not successfully restore the number of students of color at the most selective four-year campuses that would be achieved under a policy that considers race (Espenshade & Radford, 2009; Howell, 2010; Long, 2004b; Reardon, Baker, & Klasik, 2012). These findings hold true for a number of situations, including those in which high schools are assumed to be completely racially isolated, where admission under the percent plan is extended to students from out of state and guaranteed at any institution of choice, and where percent plan admissions are in place at private colleges and universities. There is no indication, in the states where affirmative action is already prohibited, that any of these conditions are likely to be implemented. Percent plans are limited to public campuses and concern in-state students only, and only the Texas university actually offers guaranteed access to the campus the student wants most (and limits are being imposed in Texas). Because a percent plan privileges students of color in segregated schools, which are usually doubly segregated by both race and poverty, the students of color who are admissible are unlikely to have families with money to pay the costs of attending a flagship university. Students of color who are eligible to attend are substantially less likely to actually enroll. This is one of the major reasons why Texas created the Longhorn scholarships focused on highly impoverished schools, but of course, even if states can provide help, it often is not enough to meet students' actual needs.

Would Affirmative Action for Low SES Students Produce Racially Diverse Campuses?

There has been a great deal of attention, much of it generated by Richard Kahlenberg and his projects at the Century Foundation, on the feasibility of using SES affirmative action as an alternative way of achieving racial diversity. The basic idea is that if colleges would give active preference to low-income students, they would achieve racial diversity without the necessity of considering a student's race in any way (Kahlenberg, 2012). Black, Latino, and American Indian families earn significantly less income than White and Asian families; they tend to live in substantially poorer neighborhoods; and they, on average, attend schools with far more poor fellow students than do Whites and Asians, conditions related to much weaker preparation for college (Venezia & Kirst, 2006). So, if all these relationships exist, why would SES not work just about as well? If the relationship is sufficiently strong, this theory would work. Because a number of studies have shown that the relationship between race and SES plus academic qualifications is not high, some advocates now suggest using more complex versions of SES, using measures of education, wealth, and so on, some of which go far beyond the data colleges normally collect from applicants.

Professor Sean Reardon and several of his associates on the Civil Rights Project–ETS project have been working to develop ways of addressing the hypothetical questions the Court has asked colleges and judges to decide (Reardon et al., 2015). When a court needs to decide whether an affirmative SES strategy or a percent plan would work under feasible conditions to produce the diversity the university deems necessary for good education of its students, it is a complex hypothetical question. Obviously, there are many different ways that a campus could define lower SES and many things that might affect its success, which could depend on factors including the amount of resources the university has to subsidize the full cost of attendance to families able to make no contribution. The Court is asking universities to show why they have concluded that these alternative plans would not produce adequate diversity and directed judges to independently assess that finding. Considering a policy affecting thousands of colleges, which face differing conditions in their recruitment areas, have different institutional missions and offerings, and so on, the question becomes vastly more complicated. The best source for campuses to answer this hypothetical question is research demonstrating the probable outcomes.

Reardon et al. (2015) have attempted to answer the question about the feasibility of achieving racially and ethnically diverse student bodies through affirmatively admitting on the basis of SES by creating elaborate and complex simulations of the admissions process using a wide array of data sources and building statistical models that try to move beyond simple correlations to show how the processes operate over time. The authors have concluded that the only reasonable way to answer the question is to create a sophisticated statistical model incorporating large data sets. They drew on longitudinal data about the actual behavior of a large sample of young people of college-going age from the major national longitudinal study, the Educational Longitudinal Study, which included measures of race, SES and test scores, family resources, college applications, college experience, and so on (Reardon et al., 2015).

Simulations prepared by the research team show that gaps in enrollment in terms of both race and income have become substantially larger since the 1980s, despite a narrowing academic achievement gap (Reardon et al., 2015). That could relate to the increase in college costs and applications for leading campuses. These simulations also show that the growing racial disparities in national college enrollment cannot be explained by differences in income according to race and ethnicity. At any income level, White students are twice as likely as Black students to attend a highly selective college. In the upper half of the income distribution, White students are twice as likely as Latinos to attend a highly selective college. Despite a myriad of race-neutral approaches, selective undergraduate institutions in states with bans on affirmative action have experienced significant declines in student body diversity.

College admissions for selective campuses is never, of course, conducted merely on the basis of either race or class. The Supreme Court has authorized affirmative action only as one factor among many in admitting students. All colleges have academic requirements, and those are very unequally distributed among races. Colleges can only select among students who actually apply, and knowledge of college and admissions requirements and processes is very unequally distributed. Finally, wealth and resources to pay for preparation, applications, and actual college expenses show huge differences by race and ethnicity. Students from families with higher income, more education, and greater wealth are much more likely to be informed about, apply to, be admitted to, and actually attend selective four-year colleges. So, when we talk about substituting SES for race, we are actually talking about changing only one element in a multidimensional equation (Reardon et al., 2015).

There is, of course, a significant correlation between the schools with high poverty, particularly very high poverty levels, and schools with segregated Black or Latino populations, but there are many poor Whites and middle-class non-Whites who attend segregated, low-achieving schools (Reardon et al, 2015). The race–poverty correlation is far from perfect, and a great many students of color, including many of those best prepared for college, are not in such schools, and the schools that do have double segregation by race and class tend to be the very schools that are the least effective in preparing students for college for many reasons. Because the least prepared students of color are likely to be in the schools that would be identified using a poverty proxy and the best prepared are likely to be in integrated schools with mixed SES that would not be identified using an SES proxy, it is a very inefficient way to identify the students of color the colleges most want. It would produce many more students needing, on average, much more academic and financial support and are less likely to succeed than better prepared Black and Latino students who need less support and aid. Because, in a color-blind framework, the aid would have to be available equally to students of all races, the expense would be very high, and much of the aid would not go to students who would increase racial diversity.

Reardon et al. concluded,

Based on our simulations, SES-based affirmative action policies do not seem likely to be effective at producing racial diversity. The SES-based affirmative action policies we simulated are fairly aggressive in terms of the weight they give to SES, and they had large effects on socioeconomic diversity, so their failure to produce substantial increases in racial diversity at elite colleges is not a result of tepid implementation. These results are consistent with Sander (1997), who found that SES-based affirmative action at the UCLA law school did not produce the levels of diversity achieved under race-based affirmative action policies. (Reardon et al., 2015, p. 19)

Under current conditions of school funding, the great majority of private colleges are without large endowments. Far from practicing affirmative action for poor students, many actually practice now a form of affirmative action for students with resources, because they cannot afford to do otherwise. In fact, many practice enrollment management, offering small scholarships to students without need to raise the campus's net income and ratings based on the test scores of admittees. Many public universities are now pursuing out-of-state and international students who can pay high tuitions to try to make up for the drastic cuts in the proportion of costs covered by state and federal funds in the last three decades. Because practicing affirmative action for all potential low-income students in a color-blind manner would require a vast increase in resources, it cannot, as the authors concluded, be considered a feasible alternative (Reardon et al., 2015).

Given the drastic decline in state support for higher education and the fact that the leading source of student grants, the federal Pell Grant program, covers a small and declining share of student costs, colleges have become much more tuition-dependent and are devoting an increasing share of their available seats to students who can pay more. This is not because they wish to; it is because they believe they have no other choice. This means that there are a great many practical barriers to using SES for admissions, particularly success as measured by the number of students who actually enroll. There are no diversity gains from admitting students who cannot do the work, much less those who cannot even afford the cost of surviving the academic year. Aside from a few of the richest private universities, there are almost no major U.S. campuses that have the funds for admitting poor students and providing them with aid and loan packages that cover all of their needs. As the Court acknowledged in Fisher, in evaluating race-neutral alternatives, the courts should consider whether such means can be implemented at a “tolerable administrative expense” (Fisher I, 133 S. Ct. at 2420). An alternative is actually realistic only if the expense is tolerable, and any solution that requires a level of resources to fully fund student need in general financial aid, for example, that none of the 50 states has been able to provide, cannot be defined as a feasible alternative (Reardon et al., 2015).

The University of California Experience

The University of California is the extreme case of long and costly investments in the major alternatives. The results have been particularly disappointing, especially at several University of California campuses that have far more competitive admissions than the University of Texas, as analyzed in the report by William Kidder and Patricia Gandara (this volume). The authors described the efforts of the university, which included attempts to use all of the leading alternatives, including unusually generous financial aid packages, a set of special early identification and summer training programs to prepare and recruit students, a percent plan, local recruiting in home communities by current University of California students and many other efforts, a comprehensive review of applications, and even cooperation with private fund-raising for students of color outside the university, to accomplish what the university is forbidden to do. A great barrier to the efforts, in which the university has invested hundreds of millions of dollars, is that because the prohibition on affirmative action makes it impossible to create special programs for students of color, students from the well-represented White and Asian communities can claim spots in those programs, and the number of students of color who can be reached within a given budget becomes substantially smaller, as does any net impact on diversity. So, it becomes far less feasible to reach a large share of the students of color. What the authors concluded is that the alternatives are costly, inefficient, and, for highly competitive campuses, simply do not work. They also reported that another result has been that the university loses many of the students of color it most wants to enroll to elite private and out-of-state campuses that can offer race-conscious aid. The authors concluded that no state is likely to be able to do as much as the University of California system has done and that, as a result, there is no feasible alternative.

The University of California spent billions of dollars, Kidder and Gandara reported (this volume), far more than most states could afford, over the past 20 years pursuing all of the major race-neutral alternatives to desegregation. It has a percent plan, and it leads highly selective universities in enrolling a high percentage of low-income Pell Grant students. It has experienced great frustration when it tried to target areas with substantial numbers of Latino students, only to find that the top students in this largely Latino area are, for example, new immigrants from Asia whose parents are temporarily low income but have advanced education. Depending on the strategy, it may cost several times more to recruit a student indirectly using a race-neutral alternative, and that student is likely to be far less prepared for university because students of color have only one tenth the level of access to the state's strongest high schools that Whites and Asians experience. The great majority of students touched by special costly outreach programs do not ever enroll in the university. The state has a massive investment in financial aid far more than most states, but even California's program leaves gaps that many low-income families cannot close.

The authors concluded,

California has made a long, expensive, creative, and multidimensional effort to make up for the losses in diversity caused by the affirmative action ban nearly two decades ago. It has tried all of the major alternatives and even actively encouraged private philanthropy to reach out directly to students of color. Given the cost and the unusually positive financial aid system, and the strong support from many system leaders for these alternatives, it is unlikely that any state will be able to do more. Yet the effort has fallen far short, the level of access for African Americans, American Indians, and Latinos who meet all the UC requirements has declined relative to Whites and Asians. (Kidder & Gandara, this volume, p. xx)

Is There Any Variable or Combination of Variables That Would Be a Feasible Replacement?

It is, in fact, extremely difficult to identify any nonracial factor that would reliably increase the share of students of color. Mark Long's analysis in this volume of 195 variables found that very few nonracial variables reliably selected students of color, and the ones that were the most effective, such as the race of your best friend, might be rejected as simply proxies for race if direct considerations of race were rejected. Mark Long's exploration goes far beyond what might be considered administratively feasible to see if there is any reasonably available way that colleges could use their existing data (he has the elements available to the University of Texas) and even the data they might collect if they undertook also using Census data and all the data elements from a massive longitudinal survey. His conclusion that the only elements that might be efficient in identifying students of color are, basically, other ways of asking their color is profoundly discouraging for those who believe that there is some kind of feasible and efficient nonracial approach that can produce diverse colleges with no consideration of race or ethnicity.

Conclusion

When affirmative action began, it reflected a broad desire to do something to integrate what had always been overwhelmingly White colleges in a society that was soon to enter a period of historic change in its demography. In the South, it was about breaking a long history of intentionally segregated higher education. Widely differing patterns of affirmative action developed across the country before the Supreme Court first laid down a legal framework in the 1978 Bakke decision on a subject that has always been controversial. It was a limited acceptance of a limited use of race for the purpose of adding to the academic diversity of higher education. By the 1990s, some courts were insisting on limiting any use of race, even for the best of goals, to what could not be accomplished without considering race in some way. The Supreme Court's first decision in Fisher

Activities & Awards
Campus & Majors
Citizenship & Residency
Course Work
Exams & Test Scores
Family Information
Fees & Payment
Personal Information
Personal Insight
Review/Submit Application
Scholarships
Schools Attended
Other Questions

Activities & Awards CAQs



What if I don't have any activities or awards? Will I be penalized?
Activities and awards are not required. Knowing what you have done outside of school simply adds to our understanding of you as an applicant.

What is coursework other than 'a-g'?
We call academic subjects (history/social studies, English, etc.) the 'a-g' subject areas. Here, we want to know about other courses you have taken that have helped shape you but that might not have been granted academic credit.

Why can I list only five courses?
We want to know which have been most significant to you.

Why can I list only five educational preparation programs?
We want to know which have been most significant to you.

Why can I list only five volunteer experiences?
We want to know which have been most significant to you.

Why can I list only five jobs?
We want to know which have been most significant to you.

Why do you want to know how I plan to spend the money I've earned?
Having this information gives us a more complete picture of you.

Why can I list only five awards or honors?
We want to know which have been most significant to you.

Why can I list only five activities?
We want to know which have been most significant to you.    back

Fees & Payments CAQs



I did not qualify for a fee waiver. What should I do if I can't afford to apply?
Select check as your method of payment, then print out your bill and send it to the application center along with a College Board fee waiver, EOPS fee waiver or letter stating your family income and how many people are supported by that income. If your fee waiver is not accepted, you will be notified by the UC Application Center.

If I withdraw my application, will my fee be refunded?
No. Application fees are nonrefundable.

Campus & Majors CAQs



If I've already submitted my application and want to apply to an additional campus, should I start a new application?
No. If the campus you want to apply to is still open, you can add it to your existing application. You will have to pay an additional application fee.

Which campuses are open to me?
View the list of open campuses.

Are all majors open to me?
View the list of closed majors.

Why are majors showing as closed?
Some majors are open only to certain types of applicants (e.g., freshmen, junior-level transfers). Additionally, campuses have limited offerings for sophomore transfers and second baccalaureate and limited status applicants. Majors also are limited after the November filing period.

What if I want to double major?
If the program you want to pursue is not an official double major program, select one major as the primary and the second major as the alternate.

What is an alternate major?
This is an option to select another area of potential interest should you not meet the selection criteria for a specific major or academic area of study (e.g., Engineering, Biological Sciences, Theater, etc.). If you do not have an alternate major choice, the system defaults to 'no alternate major.' Some campuses do not allow an alternate major choice.

What if I am undecided about my major?
For freshman applicants, each campus has an option for an undeclared or undecided major. It may be found within a specific college (e.g., College of Letters and Science) or found in a listing of all undeclared majors (e.g., Irvine, Riverside and Santa Cruz's Undeclared Majors). Undecided/Undeclared generally is not an option for junior-level transfer applicants.

What is a supplemental application?
Some majors require additional information for the admissions process. Please follow the instructions given specifically for these majors within the published deadlines.

Exams & Test Scores CAQs



How do I provide my best scores (i.e., super score) from different test dates?
UC does not accept a "super score". Please self-report only the SAT test date with the highest total score or the ACT test date with the highest composite score. Scores from other test dates can be ordered and reported officially from the testing agency.     back

I haven't taken the ACT with Writing, SAT Reasoning or SAT with Essay. What should I do?
If you haven't taken an exam, try to take it by December. If you are unable to do so, check the appropriate box and explain why in the space provided. Failing to take the exams may affect your admission.     back

I plan to study for and take my ACT or SAT after I graduate from high school. Is this acceptable?
All requirements for freshman admission, including the examination requirement, must be completed prior to high school graduation.     back

I took the SAT Math Level 1 Subject Test. Where do I enter my score?
We only accept the Math Level 2 exam, however, you may choose to send your official Math Level 1 score in order to clear a math subject area deficiency.     back

Are AP exams required?
No, but if you have taken or plan to take any AP exams, report them on the AP Exam page. This provides us with additional information about your academic history.     back

When do I arrange to have my AP scores sent?
If you have or will have AP scores, request that the official score report be sent by the testing agency to the UC campus where you plan to enroll, after you have accepted the offer of admission; unlike ACT and SAT scores, AP scores are not shared with each campus to which you have applied.     back

What if I will receive/received an AP Capstone diploma?
List your AP Capstone diploma under the Awards & Honors section, Activities and Awards page.     back

Where do I report my IB exams?
Predicted International Baccalaureate (IB) results should be reported on the International External Exams page. Completed IB exams should be reported on the IB Exams page.     back

Are IB exams required?
No, but if you have taken or plan to take any IB exams, report them on the IB Exam page. This provides us with additional information about your academic history.     back

What if my IB exam is not listed?
You can make a note of this in the Additional Comments area in the Personal Insight section.     back

Which test section do I put planned IB tests in? IB exams section with scores not yet received or International External Exam - IB exams with predicted scores?
Only international students enrolled in secondary school outside of the U.S. should report their predicted IB exam scores on the International External Exams page. For all students, completed and/or planned IB exams should be reported on the IB Exams page.    back

Who should report predicted IB exam scores?
Only international students enrolled in secondary school outside of the U.S. should report their predicted IB exam scores. Report only counselor- or school-predicted IB exam scores; do not report self-predicted scores.    back

Where do I report my predicted IB exam scores?
Predicted International Baccalaureate (IB) results should be reported on the International External Exam page. Completed IB exams should be reported on the IB Exam page.    back

When do I arrange to have my AP or IB scores sent?
If you have or will have AP or IB scores, request that the official score report be sent by the testing agency to the UC campus where you plan to enroll, after you have accepted the offer of admission; unlike ACT and SAT scores, AP and IB scores are not shared with each campus to which you have applied.     back

What are the TOEFL and IELTS exams?
The TOEFL and IELTS are English proficiency exams for students whose native language is not English and who have had the majority of their education in secondary/high school and college/university in a country where English is not the native language.     back

What is the minimum accepted score on the TOEFL or IELTS?
The minimum accepted score for the TOEFL is 80 for the Internet-based test and 550 for the paper-based test. The IELTS examination is accepted with a 6.5 or better band score (academic modules). For admission selection, a UC campus may require a score higher than the minimum.     back

How should I report my exam subjects and grades?
Report all external exams completed and planned on the International External Exams page. Select the grades/marks received exactly as they appear on your certified results sheet rather than the mark assigned by your teacher at the end of the course. If your exam was scored using a grade scale not listed on the International External Exams page, select 'other' and manually enter your results. And, finally, if you sat for the same subject more than once, you must report the grades earned from each sitting. If only part of your schooling included external exams, report your school courses and grades as they will be listed on your official secondary school transcript in the Academic History section of the application.     back

I haven't taken the SAT Subject Tests. Will my application still be considered?
Yes. We do not require Subject Tests, but if you have taken them and want to report your scores we will consider them in our review of your application. Some majors at some campuses recommend specific Subject Tests.     back

If I update my test scores, will they be sent to the campuses to which I have applied?
Yes, the application center will forward your scores to all campuses to which you have applied. You still must arrange to have official scores sent by the testing agency to at least one campus.     back

Course Work CAQs


  Freshman and Sophomore Applicants

  All Transfer Applicants

  Upper Division Transfer Applicants


Can I submit my transcripts instead of entering all my coursework and grades?
No. Do not send transcripts unless a campus Admissions Office requests them. If you are admitted you will be required to submit official transcripts.     back

I took external exams (e.g., A-levels, GCSE, IGSCE, CBSE, ICE, Standard X/XII, SPM/STPM). How should I list my subjects and grades?
Report all external exams completed and planned on the International External Exams page in the Test Score section. Select the grades/marks received exactly as they appear on your certified results sheet rather than the mark assigned by your teacher at the end of the course. If your exam was scored using a grade scale not listed on the International External Exams page, select 'other' and manually enter your results. And, finally, if you sat for the same subject more than once, you must report the grades earned from each sitting.     back

If I repeated a course, should I list it twice?
Yes. List the courses you took and grades you earned for each term, even if you repeated them or plan to repeat them.     back


Freshman and Sophomore Applicants

Why do you want to know about my 7th/8th grade courses?
Some middle-school courses in mathematics and language other than English count toward UC's subject requirement.     back

What if I only took or passed one semester of my 7th/8th grade courses?
Select "Less than full year" under the Term Period if you did not complete and pass the equivalent of two full semesters of the course.     back

What are 'a-g' subject areas?
We call academic subjects (history/social science, English, etc.) the 'a-g' subject areas. Each accredited California high school has a list of courses that have been certified by UC as meeting the 'a-g' subject requirements. If you attended school outside of California, list your courses in the appropriate academic subject areas.     back

How can I meet the geometry requirement?
Integrated math courses with geometry content (e.g., Math II, Math III, etc.) are acceptable substitutes for a standard course in geometry.     back

I am lacking two years of a language other than English (LOTE) but am fluent in another language. How can I show I have met the requirement?
You can meet this requirement in one of several ways, including through SAT Subject Tests. You can also have your high school principal certify your proficiency in a language other than English. Tell us how you have met this requirement in the Additional Comments section.     back

How should I enter my honors level courses?
Enter your honors level courses, as identified by your high school, by selecting "HL" as the Honors Type for the course(s).     back

What are UC-approved honors courses?
UC approves courses at all accredited California high schools as meeting the 'a-g' requirements. Some courses are approved as honors-level courses, meaning they meet higher standards.     back

Why can't I enter pluses and minuses in the grade field?
In calculating your high school GPA, we don't count pluses and minuses.     back

Should I list summer school courses as taken during the prior or upcoming school year?
Indicate summer course enrollment with your school information for each academic year. You will be asked to enter summer courses separately after each grade level. If you took college courses, enter them in the Colleges & Courses section.     back

What if I took online courses?
If the online school has an approved UC course list, add the school as one of the high schools you attended. We no longer allow principal certification of online courses.     back

What if I took college courses that were offered/taught at my high school?
If you took a course through a community college, regardless of the physical location of the course, enter the community college in your list of colleges attended while in high school.     back

Are all college courses given an honors point?
The additional honors point is awarded to college-level courses that are transferable to the University of California. High school-level courses taken at a community college do not receive the honors designation.     back

What if I took a course for just one semester?
For the off-term, enter the grade of NO (No Course).     back

What if I took a course for just one semester?
If your school''s term system is Semester (2 final grades per year), enter your summer grade in one of the grade fields and enter "NO" for the other grade field. If your school's term system is Trimester(3 final grades per year), enter your summer grade(s) in 2 of the grade fields and "NO" for the other grade field. If your school's term system is Quarter (4 final grades per year), enter your 2 summer grades received and "NO" for the other 2 grade fields.     back

I attend school outside the United States. How should I enter my academic history?
Complete the Academic History as best you can. Be sure to list all schools attended, beginning with grade nine, even though grade nine may have been completed at a junior high or middle school. Report all academic subjects completed and grades/marks earned each year exactly as they appear on your official secondary school transcript or academic record. UC has experienced international admission specialists who are knowledgeable about the different grading systems and methods of reporting coursework in different countries. If you sat/will sit for international external exams, report your exam subjects and grades on the International External Exams page in the Test Score section.
You can also contact an International Admissions Specialist at the campus you want to attend. Their contact information is included on the campus pages of the UC admissions website.     back

I'm a sophomore transfer student. Why do I need to list my high school courses and grades?
Knowing your high school record helps us determine if you're eligible for admission prior to junior standing. We accept sophomore transfer students only if they met UC admission requirements in high school or met all but the subject requirement and have taken the missing subjects in college.     back

My primary and secondary education total 13 years. How should I report my coursework?
In the United States, 12th grade is equivalent to the year of schooling before you attend university. If you attended school in a system where primary and secondary education total 13 years (Germany or Great Britain, for example), list your 13th year of coursework under 12th grade and work backward through 11th, 10th and 9th grades. It's also important to note that we often use the words 'college' and 'university' interchangeably. In the U.S., college level is the same as university level; college is not upper-level secondary school.     back

How can I tell if a California community college course meets an 'a-g' subject requirement?
Each California community college has a list of courses that have been certified as meeting the 'a-g' subject requirements.     back

I attend an Early/Middle College program/High School Completion Plus AA degree program. How do I report my college courses?
If you attend a school where you earn a high school diploma and college credit at the same time, enter the high school you attend and the classes taken at the high school first. After you complete your high school information, you will be asked about colleges and college courses taken while in high school.     back

Where and when do I send my high school transcript?
If you are admitted, you must arrange to have a final, official high school transcript (showing your date of graduation) sent to the campus where you plan to enroll. Unless a campus requests it, do not send a transcript during the application process.     back


All Transfer Applicants

Do I have to report college/university coursework I completed outside the U.S.?
You must report all colleges/universities you have attended and all coursework attempted, regardless of how long you attended or the grades you earned, whether courses were completed or whether you believe the record will affect your chances for admission or yield transfer credit. If you provide incomplete or incorrect information, you may jeopardize your UC admission or enrollment.     back

How can I report my military courses?
Report military courses (not academic courses completed at a college or university) in the "Additional Comments" box - not in the "Colleges and Courses" section. Do not submit any transcripts at this time. If you are admitted and accept an offer of admission, you can then submit official military transcripts (e.g., ACE, SMAART) to the UC campus of your choice. UC may award transfer credit for some of your military courses if the content is equivalent to a course taught by the University of California.     back

Do I have to submit my military transcript?
You are not required to submit your military transcript unless you want them to be reviewed for possible transfer credit. However, if you do not submit them by the stated deadline after you have been admitted, the admission office may not be able to review them after you begin classes at the campus.     back

How do I request a military transcript?
Visit the American Council on Education (ACE) website at: acenet.edu - search for "military transcripts".     back

What if I list a course as planned and I end up not taking it?
You will be able to update your application. About five weeks after the application submission deadline, you must log in to your application and complete the transfer academic update to confirm or change your planned coursework.     back

How do I enter a course with more than 15 units?
Manually enter the course as Course Title-Part 1, Course Title-Part 2, etc. Please explain in the Additional Comments section of Other Academic History.     back

I have not participated in a transfer admission program. Will my application still be considered?
Yes. Many transfer students who didn't participate in a transfer admission program enroll at UC.     back

I have not taken the required transferable courses listed. Will my application still be considered?
If you are a sophomore transfer applicant and were eligible for admission out of high school or have satisfied the missing subjects, you do not have to complete the seven-course pattern. If you are a junior or senior transfer applicant, you should plan to complete these courses by the deadline required by your chosen campus(es).     back

What if I am using AP credit to fulfill the transferable course requirements?
Enter AP exams scores in the Test Scores section of the application. Some AP exam scores of 3, 4, or 5 may be used in appropriate subject areas (exception: only one of the two English courses required can be satisfied by an AP exam score). To learn which AP exams can be used to meet the 7-course pattern go to: AP Exam Chart    back

What is IGETC?
IGETC is a series of courses California community college students can take to satisfy the lower-division general education/breadth requirements at UC. It is not an admission requirement. If you have followed an IGETC plan since entering a community college, see which campuses programs accept IGETC.     back

What is the Entry-Level Writing Requirement?
All UC undergraduates must demonstrate proficiency in writing. You can fulfill this requirement by completing a transferable college English composition course worth 4 quarter (3 semester) units. More     back

During the Transfer Academic Update period, my fall term grades will not be available until after the priority deadline. What do I do?
Select STLIP (still in progress) for your course grades. Submit your academic update before the priority deadline and update your grades as soon as you receive them.     back

After completing the Transfer Academic Update, what if I list a course as planned and I end up not taking it?
Once you've submitted the Transfer Academic Update, you may log back in and make necessary changes.     back

Where and when do I send my college transcript(s)?
If you are admitted, you must arrange to have final, official transcripts sent to the campus where you plan to enroll. Unless a campus requests it, do not send a transcript during the application process.     back


Upper Division Transfer Applicants

What if I don't remember my UC TAP login information?
You will need to retrieve this information from UC TAP in order to verify your identity and initiate the import into the application for admission to the University. UC TAP accounts and the UC admissions application accounts are NOT directly linked.     back

Will all my information get pulled in from the UC Transfer Admission Planner?
Even though personal and demographic information are contained in UC TAP, only the academic history (school, coursework and UC TAP/TAG information) will be available for import into the UC application.     back

I am getting a message that my coursework is not available even though I have a UC Transfer Admission Planner account. Why am I getting this message?
Make sure you are using the correct UC TAP login ID and UC TAP email.     back

I have updated some coursework in my UC Transfer Admission Planner. How do I import that new information?
UC Transfer Admission Planner data are current as of the date noted at the top of the page. If your last import is before that date, you will need to make the same updates here as they will not be reflected in the imported data.    back

My UC Transfer Admission Planner login is correct but the import isn't working. What do I do?
If the system is unable to make the match between your UC TAP account and your application, you should manually enter your information.     back

Schools Attended CAQs


Freshman and Sophomore Applicants

All Transfer Applicants

Upper Division Transfer Applicants


What if I will receive/received a high school diploma and IB diploma?
Do not select Other. Select High/Secondary School Diploma from the list and check the IB Diploma checkbox under the Test Scores section, IB Exams page.     back

What if I receive a high school diploma and AP Capstone diploma?
Do not select Other. Select High/Secondary School Diploma from the list and list your AP Capstone diploma under the Awards & Honors section, Activities and Awards page.     back

I attend a British System college. How should I enter my school?
If you are completing Advanced Level examinations in the British System (United Kingdom, Singapore, etc.), indicate your last school attended as your high school of graduation, even though your school may be called a college or junior college. We often use the words 'college' and 'university' interchangeably. College level is the same as university level. College is not upper-level secondary school in the U.S.     back


Freshman and Sophomore Applicants

I entered my high school, but it does not appear in the dropdown list of schools.
If your California high school does not appear in the list, check that you have typed the name correctly. Try entering just the unique words in your school name and leaving out words such as High School, College, or Saint. If your school is not in California and does not appear in the list (or no matches appear), enter the full name of the school, the city and institution type, then click 'Add This.'     back

What is a specialized curriculum?
Specialized curriculum focuses on a particular academic or career-technical area of study. A career pathway/academy is a cohort of students within a school who typically participate for three years in a state-funded California Partnership Academy with a focus on an area of career interest. A magnet school accepts students based on their interest and proven talent in an academic area of emphasis (e.g., the arts, or science and technology) and nurtures student development in that area. If your school does not have a specialized curriculum, leave this blank. Do not select Other.     back

I am home-schooled. What should I enter for my school?
List 'Home School/Home Study' as your school name. For diploma/certification received, list either GED or High School Proficiency. If you took courses through an online provider, a correspondence school or other accredited program, list the institution's name and dates of attendance, and any certificate received. Some campuses may require additional information such as a portfolio. For specific requirements, contact the individual campus.     back

I didn't graduate from high school, and I keep getting an error message. What should I do?
Enter all the requested information and answer 'Yes' to the question asking if this is the school you graduated from. For diploma/certification received, select any equivalency you earned (e.g., GED or High School Proficiency) if applicable or "Other" and type "None". Please explain why you did not graduate from high school in the Additional Comments section of Other Academic History.    back

My school's grading system isn't listed.
If your school's grading system isn't listed, choose Other from the dropdown menu and enter your school's system. Do not select Other if the only differences are plus and minus letter grades. If your grades are from a school outside the U.S., do not convert them; enter your marks exactly as issued by your school when you are asked for your grades. If you attend school in Korea, which uses a ranking system (1-9), please report both your rank and your raw score in each course. Grades should be reported as follows: rank/raw score (e.g., 2/94). We have experienced international admission specialists who are knowledgeable about the different grading systems and methods of reporting coursework in different countries.     back

I attended a school for a year, left for a year and then returned. How should I enter the dates of attendance?
Enter the dates as if there were no gap in attendance, starting with the earliest date you attended the school and ending with the most recent.     back

What if I took online courses?
If the online provider has an approved UC course list (e.g., Laurel Springs Online, UCCP, EPGY), add the provider as one of the high schools you attended. If the online course is being certified by your high school principal and will appear on your high school transcript, you can self-enter the course as part of the curriculum taken at your high school.     back

What if I took college courses that were offered/taught at my high school?
If you took a course through a community college, regardless of the physical location of the course, enter the community college in your list of colleges attended while in high school.     back

I attend an Early/Middle College program/High School Completion Plus AA degree program. How do I report my college courses?
If you attend a school where you earn a high school diploma and college credit at the same time, enter the high school you attend and the classes taken at the high school first. After you complete your high school information, you will be asked about colleges and college courses taken while in high school, step 3 In This Section.     back


All Transfer Applicants

I entered my college, but it does not appear in the dropdown list of colleges.
If your college is in California, check that you have typed the name correctly. Try entering just the unique words in your school name and leaving out words such as High School, College, or Saint. If your school is not in California and does not appear in the list (or no matches appear), enter the full name of the school, the city and institution type, then click 'Add This.'     back

I attended a college for a year, left for a year and then returned. How should I enter the dates of attendance?
Enter the dates as if there were no gap in attendance, starting with the earliest date you attended the school and ending with the most recent.     back

I am currently enrolled at two colleges. Which one should I list as my current or most recent school?
Indicate as your current college the one where you are carrying the most units.     back

How do I know if my Associate degree is for Transfer?
Check with your California community college counselor to see if your degree is an approved Associate of Arts or Associate of Science degree for Transfer (i.e., AA-T, AS-T, SB 1440 degree). Select Associate's if your degree is not one of the approved degree programs or you are attending a community college outside of California.     back

My school's grading system isn't listed.
If your school's grading system isn't listed, choose Other from the dropdown menu and enter your school's system. Do not select Other if the only differences are plus and minus letter grades. If your grades are from a school outside the U.S., do not convert them; enter your marks exactly as issued by your school when you are asked for your grades.     back


Upper Division Transfer Applicants

I'm a transfer student. Why do I need to list my high school?
It helps us understand your academic history and the path you've taken. List the high school you graduate from or last attended.     back

What if my school isn't listed?
Finish typing the name of your school and click 'Add.' Answer the questions that follow.     back

What if I didn't receive a high school diploma?
If you received a GED or certificate, enter that information in the space provided. Otherwise, leave the space blank.     back

What if I don't remember my UC TAP login information?
You will need to retrieve this information from UC TAP in order to verify your identity and initiate the import into the application for admission to the University. UC TAP accounts and the UC admissions application accounts are NOT directly linked.     back

Will all my information get pulled in from the UC Transfer Admission Planner?
Even though personal and demographic information are contained in UC TAP, only the academic history (school, coursework and UC TAP/TAG information) will be available for import into the UC application.     back

I am getting a message that my coursework is not available even though I have a UC Transfer Admission Planner account. Why am I getting this message?
Make sure you are using the correct UC TAP login ID and UC TAP email.     back

I have updated some coursework in my UC Transfer Admission Planner. How do I import that new information?
UC Transfer Admission Planner data are current as of the date noted at the top of the page. If your last import is before that date, you will need to make the same updates here as they will not be reflected in the imported data.     back

My UC Transfer Admission Planner login is correct but the import isn't working. What do I do?
If the system is unable to make the match between your UC TAP account and your application, you should manually enter your information.     back

Scholarship CAQs



When will I find out if I've been granted a scholarship?
The campus will inform you after you are admitted.

Do I need to provide proof that I meet the requirements for a scholarship?
Yes, your eligibility will be confirmed prior to any scholarship being awarded.

If I apply for scholarships, do I also need to apply for financial aid?
It is strongly recommended that all U.S. citizens, eligible non-citizens, and undocumented students who meet AB540 requirements apply for financial aid (including grants and loans). The deadline to apply is March 2 of the year you plan to start.

Family Information CAQs



I have one parent/legal guardian. Do I have to fill out both parent sections?
Enter only the information that is relevant to your family situation.

What do I put as the job title if my parent is deceased?
You may leave the job title and number of years blank.

I do not receive any financial support from a parent/legal guardian but I do not meet the criteria listed for independent status. How do I respond to this question?
While most students under 24 do not meet the criteria for financial independence, if this accurately describes your situation and you support yourself solely with your own resources (employment, commercial/institutional loans in your name only, financial aid and savings from earnings,) you should claim independent status. Your response to this question helps us understand your unique family situation and does not have any bearing on financial aid determinations.

Why are you asking about single parent status?
It helps us understand your unique family situation.

Why must I disclose my family's income?
Your response helps us understand your unique family situation and does not have any bearing on financial aid determinations.

How do I calculate total household income?
Estimate the total you earn each year before taxes are taken out. For parent income, that includes money earned by your parents and step-parents who contribute to your support. If you're married, include your spouse's income. Income can include wages, salary, commissions, income from self-employment; Social Security, dividends or interest, public assistance or welfare payments, unemployment compensation, pensions or annuities, alimony or child support payments, and regular contributions from persons not living in the household. Do not include any financial aid you've received.

What if my parent is serving or served in the U.S. military?
Check the box indicating you are a dependent of a U.S. service member or veteran.

Personal Information CAQs