Preferences in Education

While many are out to remove affirmative action in the college admission process, some may argue that we should “not give preferences in higher education to anyone… [then] at least our society, our precious American way of life, will be viewed by the world as being fair.”

Those are the words of Regina Smith from a presentation given to an honors communication course at Prince George’s Community College. Smith is an African American adult who holds a full-time job with the Federal government while attending college in the evenings.

Rather than defend affirmative action in college admissions, Smith said that, “I’m going to focus on the other preferences. Yes, there are other preferences that give other kinds of students the same unfair opportunity for a college education.”

Smith provided three examples of other preferences: legacy admissions, athletics, and socioeconomic status.

Of the first, Smith explained that legacy admissions provide students with special admittance consideration if one of their parents had previously graduated from the same institution. She points out that “your SAT score could be lower than three fourths of your classmates, but your family legacy could still get you admitted to Harvard University.”

Smith then proclaims that the majority of college athletes are not held to the same standard as general students. “Athletes often get more academic assistance than the average student – special advisors and paid tutors, careful course placement and schedules, even pressure that’s placed on tough teachers to ‘go easy’ on the superstars,” she said.

She acclaims this preference to money, explaining that the NCAA signed an eleven-year, $6 billion television contract with $187 million distributed to 320 Division I schools. Smith asserts that, “Because of the focus on money, academically qualified students are passed over for physically gifted athletes. Both sets of students are cheated out of an education. That seems unfair.”

Last of all, Smith points out that middle-income families are at a disadvantage because they make too much money, and yet don’t have enough to put aside a fund for college education. “Why shouldn’t their children be given a preference for their hard work in school and their parents’ hard work on the job that pays just enough to get by but not enough to pay for tuition?” she questions.

Smith states that her goal is not to list every preference made available to students but to question why affirmative action is singled out. She justifies herself, explaining, “If your culture is not represented in higher education, we’ll give you your very own month to celebrate, but no preferences for a college admission. Let’s be fair.”

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