Should India Reform College Admissions?

July 8, 2023

A good education is the foundation for better future” –Elizabeth Warren (b. 1949) American politician, former professor and later US Senator.

Before we come to the Indian scene on the subject, it is instructive to have a brief look at the American scene on the subject as set out in an article titled After race-conscious admissions, Harvard targeted for favouring kids of alumni and released by NYT News Service on July 5, 2023 and excerpted below.

It's been called affirmative action for the rich: Harvard University's special admissions treatment for students whose parents are alumni, or whose relatives donated money. And in a complaint filed on recently, a legal activist group demanded that the federal government put an end to it, arguing that fairness was even more imperative after the Supreme Court recently severely limited race-conscious admissions.

Three Boston-area groups requested that the education department review the practice, saying the admissions policies discriminated against black, Hispanic and Asian applicants, in favour of less qualified white candidates with alumni and donor connections.

"Why are we rewarding children for privileges and advantages accrued by prior generations?" asked Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal, executive director of Lawyers for Civil Rights, which is handling the case.

"Your family's last name and the size of your bank account are not a measure of merit, and should have no bearing on the college admissions process." The complaint from liberal groups comes days after a conservative group, Students for Fair Admissions, won its Supreme Court case. And it adds to accelerating pressure on colleges to eliminate special preferences for the children of alumni and donors.

In a statement after the Supreme Court decision, President Joe Biden said he would ask the department to examine "practices like legacy admissions and other systems that expand privilege instead of opportunity."

Colleges argue that the practice helps build community and encourages donations, which can be used for financial aid. A poll last year by the Pew Research Center found that an increasing share of the public - 75% - believed that legacy preferences should not be a factor.

Peter Arcidiacono, an economist who has analysed Harvard data, found that a typical white legacy applicant's chances of being admitted increase five-fold over a typical, white non-legacy applicant.

The subject has many implications for admission practices in India and is open to many views. What are yours? Your response is invited in the format given below (Pl. Scroll down a bit.)


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By John B Monteiro
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Comment on this article

  • mohan prabhu, mangalore/canada

    Sun, Jul 09 2023

    Affirmative action of a different kind is written in the Constitution of India and in the Charter of Rights and Freedom of Canada. In India, it is a reservation policy for the SC, ST, OBC often up to half the seats in college (especially higher education, professional such as engineering, medicine, business administration, etc, even LAW. Such priority admissions deny seats for talented middle and upper classes and bring down academic standards, just like legacy admission for the rich who were alumni or donated lots of money to the institutions. BOTH are wrong. Some one loses despite high IQs and brings the institutions'/country's standards down.

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