A high school student with perfect SAT scores and nine Advanced Placement courses under his belt should have his pick of colleges, right? If the student in question is Asian, not necessarily. Take the Asian-American dynamo with these very credentials denied admission to Princeton, Harvard, Stanford, the University of Pennsylvania, and MIT. The student filed a lawsuit against Yale in 2006 alleging that the prestigious university rejected him because of his race, the Boston Globe reports. Although that suit has yet to be settled, an increasing number of Asian Americans say that admissions officers at the nation's most elite universities have what's been dubbed an "Asian ceiling." This prevents the Asian population of the student body from exceeding 20 percent.
At Harvard, for example, the number of Asian students has remained relatively static over the past five years, according to the Globe. Asian Americans compose 17.8 percent of students Harvard admitted last month, up just three percent from a decade ago. But the demographics of the University of California indicate that Asian Students should make up far more of the student body at prestigious universities nationwide. Why? Because 14 years ago, a measure known as Proposition 209 went into effect in California which put an end to race-based admissions. Today, Asian-American students make up 40 percent of the student body at the state's top school--the University of California, Berkeley. That's more than double the amount of Asian Americans at Ivy League institutions. The difference? Ivy League schools may consider race in the admissions process.
"If institutions are using race to keep Asian-American students out, it's based on a fear that these 'other' students are taking over our institutions," says Sam Museus, an Asian-American studies professor at the University of Massachusetts, told the Globe.
Admissions officers deny capping the number of Asian-American students at schools, but a 2009 book called No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal posited that Asian Americans needed nearly perfect SAT scores to gain entrance to a top private university and that whites were three times more likely than Asians to be accepted into any U.S. university.
Some argue that this is no big deal, given that Asians are already overrepresented in higher education. After all, they make up just about 5 percent of the U.S. population, but quadruple that figure in the Ivy League. That may be true, but discriminating against Asian students because they're overrepresented smacks of racism. Asian students shouldn't be held to a higher standard than whites, blacks or Latinos in the admissions process. Moreover, capping the number of Asian students in higher ed paints Asian Americans with a broad brush. It doesn't take into account the low-income Asian students who managed to excel in high school or applicants from Asian ethnic groups who are typically underrepresented in higher ed. While ethnic diversity on college campuses has proven to beneficial, admissions officers shouldn't foster this diversity by imposing a glass ceiling on the nation's so-called "model minority."