Affirmative Action Should Focus on Economic Diversity


By Andrew Heying, Opinion Editor

Before I even begin laying out my argument, I must say that this is not a piece about reverse racism, white supremacy or anything of the sort. I, like many others, believe diversity of race, gender, sexuality, religion, socioeconomic status and thought are extremely important — especially on college campuses. Colleges are supposed to prepare us for the real world, which is a diverse world, and this cannot happen in bubbles of one race, gender or world perspective.

Through Affirmative Action, major positive steps have been taken in ensuring diversity of race and gender on college campuses. However,  despite all the fuss made about Affirmative Action, the majority of kids on college campuses are still rich and white. For example, black students still only account for an average of six percent of the population at top-tier institutions. Furthermore, many universities — such as NYU — have more students enrolled from the top one percent than from the bottom sixty percent. Finally, the demographic that benefits the most from Affirmative Action is actually white women.

If the American dream is that anyone can make it, regardless of who they are or where they come from, these statistics suggest the cards are still stacked immensely against far too many Americans. Clearly, Affirmative Action in its current state is not doing enough to offer equal opportunities in education. The best and most fair way to improve Affirmative Action is to push universities, especially top-tier universities, to focus more on economic diversity. If Affirmative Action is about leveling the playing field, then colleges must put new emphasis on affordability.

Income inequality in the United States is now at its highest since 1928. Therefore, most of the kids who can afford to go to America’s ridiculously overpriced top-tier universities are from families of extreme affluence. Not only is this problematic in that it prevents many bright, hardworking middle and lower class kids from attending our country’s best colleges, but it is also a central contributing factor to the lack of racial and geographic diversity on college campuses. Due to decades of institutional racism, black families still unfortunately make less on average than white families. Because of this, rich white kids are much more likely to obtain the best jobs and therefore go on to achieve individual affluence. This is undoubtedly anti-American. Instead of constantly bragging about racial diversity — which is still insanely lacking — colleges should turn their focus on to making sure kids from all incomes can afford to attend. In fact, a push to make college more affordable through both lower tuition and more scholarships is one of the few topics that has recently received bipartisan support.

In closing, I must acknowledge that yes, I am a white person writing about Affirmative Action. I was not inspired to write this because I feel as though white people are being somehow discriminated against through Affirmative Action. In fact, I am writing this because I believe in more diversity in higher education. I am sick of elite universities bragging about all of their supposed diversity when the majority of their students come from wealthy private schools on the coasts. Upper education must be made more affordable in order to ensure that any hardworking young person can achieve their dreams. In its current state, Affirmative Action simply is not doing enough.

A version of this article appeared in the Sunday, Aug. 27 print edition. Email Andrew Heying at [email protected]