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Admission standards for Asian Am students are higher than for White students, paper finds


Recent research found that admission standards at selective colleges are higher for Asian American students than they are for White students.

According to Inside Higher Ed, the National Bureau of Economic Research published a working paper in August that analyzed applicant and enrollment data from 2015 to 2021. The study found that Asian American applicants were 28% less likely to be accepted to selective colleges than White students with similar grades, test scores and extracurriculars.

The standards also varied by regional ethnic groups, Higher Ed Dive reports. South Asian applicants were 49% less likely to be accepted than their White peers. East Asian applicants were 17% less likely to be accepted than White applicants.

“We haven’t seen any other paper that really treats Asian American students as anything other than this monolithic group, but there is a marked heterogeneity in their experiences,” Josh Grossman, one of the study’s authors and a data scientist at Stanford University’s Computational Policy Lab, told Inside Higher Ed. “If you don’t consider that, you lose an important part of the story.”

The paper cites legacy admissions as one of the reasons for the gap in standards. According to Higher Ed Dive, it says that legacy admissions policies disproportionately hurts Asian American applicants.

While both White and Asian American legacy applicants were twice as likely to be admitted than students without legacy status, Asian American applicants were far less likely to have legacy status. East Asian and Southeast Asian were around three times less likely to have legacy status than White students. South Asian applicants were six times less likely.

Affirmative action, and its perceived impact on Asian American students, has taken the spotlight over the last few years. Now, with the end of affirmative, legacy admissions policies are gaining attention. In early July, three civil rights groups filed a lawsuit against Harvard for allegedly discriminating against applicants by giving preferential treatment to legacy applicants.

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