Thursday, November 5, 2009

UC's Attack on the Middle Class

While most people think that the biggest cause for the future reduction of a diverse student body at UC is the rapid increase of student fees, other factors may play a much bigger role. One of the main reasons why we will be seeing a decrease in both underrepresented minorities and Californians at UC in the future is that there is a plan to reduce the total number of enrolled students. At the same time, several campuses are planning to increase the number of high-paying out-of-state and international students, and this means there will be even less space for in-state students.

However, the biggest driving force behind the coming loss of diversity is the use of SAT scores to determine admissions decisions. As Peter Sacks points out in his Book Tearing Down the Gates, studies show that SAT scores do not predict the success a student will have in college; rather SAT scores predict the average wealth of the parents of the incoming student. Since campuses in the UC system are now motivated to rely more on endowments, they have a strong incentive to accept more wealthy students who will give more money in the present and the future. Universities know that the best way to build an endowment is to make SAT scores the central force in determining admissions. While UC now has a comprehensive admission policy, several campuses still base most of their admission decisions on test scores, which also helps to maintain high ratings in the U.S. News & World Report ranking system.

Nationally, many universities have now replaced need-based financial aid with merit-based aid in order to compete for the highest scoring students. The result is that wealthy students are being subsidized by middle-class students. In UC’s case, middle-class students subsidize lower-class students through a system that raises fees for everyone, and then gives a third of the money back for financial aid to the students whose parents make less than a combined $70,000. It is these same middle-class families that have seen their investments wiped out and their home values plunge. This is the true war on the middle-class: we are now seeing middle-class students dropping out of college because their parents cannot afford the tuition increases. Meanwhile, the middle-class students who do remain in the UC system face huge student loans with high interest rates.


  1. I have never liked the SAT. I rarely found that the results are a measure of anything academic. The test it's self is weighted towards reading and writing, which automatically puts any student who primarily excels in math at a disadvantage as there is only a single math section. Furthermore the math section is based mostly off algebra and geometry, two fields I had not taken in some time. Because of this, I score much lower on my SAT then my fellow classmates whom I had been keeping pace with in our high school.

  2. As an international at UCLA, I would actually like to see more diversity in the student population. Granted, UCs have a very ethnically diverse student body, the diversity in terms of income and background is lacking. The increase in international students and out-of-state students may have a positive influence on the atmosphere of the schools. However, I suppose UC being University of California, has to place the benefit of Californians in front of those students. If UC was not tied up in the student fee hikes, I would actually support the proposal of enrolling more out of state and international students as many private schools and UMich have done.

  3. I personally do not understand the strong push for diversity on campuses. I am a believer in the logical fact that accomplishment should lead to reward with diversity making no effect. The SAT, although it is not the perfect system, is an effective system as it is universal and constant to all students. It is true that English is favored as the reading and writing sections outnumber the single math section, but rather than complaining, students should learn to adapt to such easily surpassable difficulties.

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  5. Diversity is wonderful, and I admire the incredible diversity UCLA has compared to other universities. Although I respect how diversity allows students to learn about cultures outside of the classroom, I don’t think that UCLA should jeopardize the prestige of the university for diversity. UCLA is an outstanding, well-respected school. I like the opportunity to take challenging classes and be pushed to my limits because of the competition of other extremely bright students.
    I find the correlation between SAT scores and wealth fascinating, but not entirely true. I’ve seen friends from very wealthy families bomb the SATs and friends from poorer families come close to a 2400. This connection also made me question whether or not it’s necessarily a bad thing. Is it really terrible if wealthy families use their earned resources to pay for an SAT tutor?

  6. I do not think that the SAT is the best way to qualify students into colleges because we all come from different high schools which focus on different things so it is way to difficult to have a test that would cover all that we have learned. I think diversity is very important and I am glad that UCLA is making an effort to keep diversity.

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