Quality requirements ‘penalize’ minority college students

Grades requirements are responsible for ‘disproportionately’ pushing ‘students of color’ out of STEM disciplines as well as finance and economics fields, according to a recent Living room article which warned that such policies contribute to “persistent racial pay gaps” long after graduation. Living room cites those who suggest adopting a “holistic admissions process” that “would not just consider a student’s GPA, but their experiences, involvement on campus, arc of academic growth and other intangibles”.

On Sunday writing – title “In Economics, Grade Restrictions Weed Out Students of Color” and written by Ashley Smart, associate director of MIT’s Knight Science Journalism program – bears the subtitle, “GPA requirements push black and Hispanic students out of STEM majors – and can widen the wage gap later.”

The piece, originally published last month in the science-themed digital magazine Undark where Smart is editor-in-chief, begins by discussing the many college campuses that “were still grappling with the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer” in the summer 2020, which led “students of color” in the economics department at the University of California, Berkeley to explore the topics of racism and white supremacy and how they were “manifesting in the economics department.”

According to Berkeley student Cruz Vital, fellow students criticized an economics department policy requiring most students to maintain a minimum 3.0 grade point average in a set of prerequisite courses, including statistics, calculus, and economics, in order to qualify for admission.

“Similar GPA-based restrictions have been deployed elsewhere at Berkeley, and beyond, generally to limit the number of students pursuing majors strained by high enrollment,” Smart writes. “They’re particularly common in science, technology, engineering and math – known as STEM disciplines – but they’ve also proliferated in fields like finance and economics.”

This practice of placing GPA restrictions on majors is prevalent at a large majority of top public universities, the author notes.

Vital, who claims to know of many “underrepresented minorities” in the field of economics who have failed, speculated that the restriction “disproportionately affects non-traditional and socio-disadvantaged students. -economic, who are more likely to come from underrepresented racial and ethnic backgrounds. .”

Two economists, Zach Bleemer and Aashish Mehta, analyzed the detailed records of nearly a million college students over decades and gathered statistics supporting the idea, after finding evidence that “GPA restrictions actually push , disproportionately black and Hispanic students out of restricted majors.

The two noted that historically the restrictions led to a decline in the share of “underrepresented students” in the major, and suspected that the disparity could be “attributed to inequalities in pre-college education”, such as the inaccessibility of academic opportunities like AP classes, which Bleemer says are “race-correlated.”

“An apparent effect of the restrictions is to divert these students from more lucrative streams to less lucrative streams, limiting their career prospects long after graduation and contributing to persistent racial wage gaps,” Smart writes.

If the economists’ findings are valid, proving that GPA restrictions disproportionately penalize black and Hispanic students, Smart insists that “they will add to a growing body of evidence that a culture of competition in many courses Introductory academics, known as weeding courses, are exacting a heavy toll on students from underrepresented racial and ethnic backgrounds.

The author explains that such results appear to support the view that “extremely competitive introductory and prerequisite courses are the primary drivers of attrition for students of color in STEM and other highly technical fields.”

He also claimed that studies suggest that these students “may also be more frequently subjected to negative social and psychological cues, such as racial stereotyping or exclusion from study groups”, and that when “black students, Hispanics or natives do poorly in these weed-out courses, the consequences are more severe than for their peers.

As a result, Bleemer and Mehta suggested that the “weeding culture” of GPA restrictions drives black and Hispanic students “into fields that would pay them less, after graduation, than the fields they would have gone to if no restrictions had been in place. ”

“This finding aligns with a recent study by The Urban Institute, a nonprofit research organization, which showed that black undergraduates tend to be overrepresented in lower-paying majors like public administration and social services, and underrepresented in lucrative majors like engineering, math, and statistics,” writes Smart.

“Hispanic undergraduates, also underrepresented in STEM, tended to be overrepresented in majors like language studies and linguistics,” he added.

The author then cites those who prefer that the economics department adopt a “holistic admissions process for all of its applicants, not just those in the position of having to appeal”, and that the department “consider not only the GPA of a student but their experiences”. , their involvement on campus, the arc of their academic growth, and other intangible assets.

According to Smart, some departments have adopted “holistic selection criteria”, with Bleemer and Mehta concluding that “unlike GPA requirements, these holistic admissions processes do not negatively impact racial and ethnic representation”.

The essay also documents Stephen Schmidt, a professor of economics at Union College, having considered “admitting applicants on a first-come, first-served basis,” while concluding that such a policy “would favor students who come to campus already knowing they want to major in economics” — a demographic he says is likely to skew toward “white and male.”

In response, some took to Twitter to mock the piece.

“Salon: ‘We should let people who fail college build our schools and bridges, secure our online data, run our banks, etc. if they’re black and brown,'” one Twitter user wrote .

“The notes are racist!” wrote another user.

“FACT CHECK: They weed out ALL people who don’t have the required grades,” another Twitter user wrote.

The trial comes as Chicago’s Oak Park and River Forest High School (OPRFHS) recently began implementing a “transformative” and “equitable” grading system, after evaluating the original system using “evidence-backed research” and a “racial equity analysis tool.”

According to a slide used in a presentation, supporters say the move was necessary because “traditional scoring practices perpetuate inequality.”

Under the new system, students will not be held accountable for missing class, misbehaving in school or failing to turn in their homework.

Last year, the Santa Barbara, California, school district considered a proposal to ban “D” and “F” grades “to address student inequity,” while the San Francisco school board considered to scrap merit-based admissions at Lowell High School over concerns the tests reinforce “systemic racism” at the Asian-majority institution.

Additionally, Stanford Law School launched a “Youth Justice Lab” aimed at combating racism in public schools after the university claimed that special education, advanced placement programs, and other grading policies “meritocratic” are “insidious” forms of “state-sponsored racism”. segregation.”

Follow Joshua Klein on Twitter @JoshuaKlein.


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