Retired K-State professor weighs in on racial preferences in college admissions

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When Dennis Weisman, emeritus professor of economics, retired from K-State, he continued to pursue research; some of his recent work evaluates how race affects college admissions and the academic strength of universities.

Weisman said he is in the process of researching how allowing racial preferences in college admissions affects universities, and that his data from his research indicates that not increasing diversity of the student population through racial preference harms the academic quality of schools.

This decrease, according to the research, is a result of a less diverse – and sometimes less qualified – student body when racial preferences are not considered on the same level as other admissions criteria.

According to Weisman, some disagree with race-based admissions policies because the believe they harm the academic strength of schools; however, he said this disagreement is largely invalidated based on his data. Weisman also said that racially-based preferences are often secondary to other preferences.

“Other types of preferences include those for talented athletes and the offspring of wealthy alumni, so-called legacy preferences,” Weisman said.

More prestigious the schools are more likely to have these preferences, according to Weisman, who also said it is largely a result of higher admissions standards at these schools, coupled with the value placed on athletic revenue and donations from alumni.

Weisman said that in many places, school funding is cut by legislatures, causing universities to give preference in other areas than race at schools that fear they will lose revenue if they eliminate athletic and legacy preferences.

“With the fiscal constraints that administrators face, you will be putting strain on financial resources,” Weisman said.

As a result of funding cuts, some schools are forced to value revenue over academic strength.

According to data reported by the Kansas City Star, University of Kansas men’s basketball reported a $9.774 million net revenue for the year 2014 alone. According to the Lawrence Journal, 2014 marked a year when one single alumni donation totaled $58 million. Forbes reports that in that same year, minorities made up only 26.33 percent of the student body at KU.

Similar circumstances existed at K-State in the year 2014; minorities made up 25.1 percent of the student population. Total net assets from the athletic department totaled $34.7 million; $17.3 million of this revenue came from donations to the athletic department.

Some students said they think that athletic or legacy preferences are given too much emphasis.

“I do think we focus a lot on kids who have athletic benefit, or who’s parents donated millions of dollars,” Alexandria Smith, junior in marketing, said. “It really is all about the money and not as much about the students.”

Natalie Turner, sophomore in management, said that this has been the case in both schools that she has attended, particularly in athletics.

“The athletes have tended to be less strong academically at both schools that I’ve been to,” Turner said.

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