Most Americans say colleges should not consider race or ethnicity in admissions

Nikki Graf:

hen asked about eight admissions criteria that colleges may consider, high school grades top the list. About two-thirds of Americans (67%) say this should be a major factor; 26% say it should be a minor factor. And while many colleges have stopped requiring standardized test scores as part of the application process, 47% of Americans say these scores should play a major role, while an additional 41% say they should play a minor role. Most Americans also think colleges should take into account community service involvement.

The public is more divided, however, over whether being the first person in the family to go to college should factor into admissions decisions. Some 47% say this should be considered, while 53% say it should not be a factor.

In addition to race or ethnicity, majorities also say that colleges should not consider an applicant’s gender (81%), whether a relative attended the school (68%) – a practice known as legacy admissions – or athletic ability (57%) when making decisions.

Across several of these items, views vary by education, with those holding at least a bachelor’s degree generally more likely than those with less education to say they should be at least a minor factor in college admissions. For example, college graduates are more likely than those with less education to say colleges should consider race (38% say it should be a major or minor factor vs. 22% among those without a bachelor’s degree) or being a first-generation college student (57% vs. 43%) in admissions decisions.