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Merit as a Moving Target

contrerasTitle: Merit as a Moving Target in Post-Proposition 209 UC Admissions

Author: Frances E. Contreras

Date: August 2004

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Broadening access to college opportunities and admissions to the University of California to reflect the racial and cultural diversity of the state has become increasingly difficult post-Proposition 209, banning affirmative action. University of California officials must contend with a “color-blind” admissions process, a growing presence of legal counsel, funding limitations, increasingly competitive applicant pools, and an evolving definition of the nature of merit.

This research offers a framework for understanding how public policy has affected university admissions of underrepresented students. This research seeks to answer the following question:

  • Have the variables that serve as the traditional indicators for admission changed since the inception of SP-1 and Proposition 209?
  • If so, how has this affected admitted student profiles in 1994 and 1999, in general, and particularly the profiles of underrepresented students?
  • What are the implications of these changing profiles for determining UC eligibility?

This study focused on three case study campuses: UCLA, UC Davis, and UC Riverside. In addition to applicant and admissions data from the three case campuses for 1994 and 1999 (pre- and post-Proposition 209), researchers interviewed university officials and admissions officers and analyzed admissions data from these campuses over the past 15 years, in order to understand the shifts in UC admissions and enrollments that have occurred because of affirmative action changes.

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