UC Berkeley press release

NEWS RELEASE, 10/10/96


by Jesus Mena

The analysis of freshman admissions at UC Berkeley issued today by the Center for Equal Opportunity is based on erroneous data.

More specifically, the report cites that UC Berkeley had an applicant pool of 9,949 in the fall of 1993. The actual number was 18,802. Likewise for the fall of 1995, the report states that the applicant pool was 12,194 when in fact it was 21,672.

Errors of this magnitude are sprinkled throughout the report leading anyone to question the veracity of its conclusions.

However, since the study has been disseminated to the press, it is important to address some of the conclusions it draws. The study implies that grades and test scores are the only appropriate measures of achievement and that race and ethnicity are the only factors given weight at Berkeley. Both of these implications are false.

Faculty at Berkeley have carefully crafted the campus's freshman admission policy in strict accordance with UC Regents' freshman admission policies and with federal law. Under federal law, race and ethnicity may be considered among the criteria a campus uses to select its entering class. In addition to race and ethnicity, Berkeley also considers California residency, low socioeconomic status, disability, special talent in athletics and the performing arts, graduation from a rural high school, and re-entry status. There are no set-asides or quotas at Berkeley, and every applicant competes for every space.

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in the U.S. Department of Education spent more than six years investigating freshman admission at Berkeley. On March 1, 1996, OCR issued a Letter of Findings that declared Berkeley's freshman admission policies and practices to be in full and complete compliance with federal law.

The Center for Equal Opportunity study emphasizes differences in SAT I mathematics and verbal scores by race and ethnicity within the freshman class at Berkeley. It is important to remember that an SAT score is only one measure of achievement. For fall 1996, Berkeley read more than 20,000 individual applications, some as many as four times. We look at a student's total achievement both in and out of the classroom, and we consider the opportunities and challenges each applicant has faced.

It is also important to point out that, in the aggregate, SAT I mathematics and verbal scores are directly correlated with family income. The median family income for fall 1995 Chicano freshmen at Berkeley was $33,971. For fall 1995 African American freshman at Berkeley, the median family income was $35,000. These figures contrast with a median family income of $80,000 for white students.

In concentrating on the differences in scores, the study fails to note that 97 percent of the admitted students at Berkeley rank among the top 12.5 percent of California's high school graduates. The other 3 percent includes students of every race and ethnicity.

The study also focuses on the lower percentages of whites and Asian American applicants who actually enroll at Berkeley -- particularly whites -- in comparison to African American and Hispanic applicants. To a significant extent, these percentages are the result of having far more Asian American and white applicants in the total applicant pool than African Americans and Hispanics.

The comparative enrollment percentage for whites in particular is affected by a number of other important variables. One is that Asian American applicants to Berkeley outperform whites on grade-point average and SAT I and SAT II scores. A second factor is that admitted Asian American applicants to Berkeley choose to enroll at a much higher rate than do admitted white students. One possible reason is that the high family incomes of many whites students give them a much wider range of college choices, including more expensive independent colleges and universities.

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