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Higher-level education has become the main differentiation for economic prospects and job opportunities for many working-class individuals. Who receives this education has come to the forefront of many public discussions. In the past, college admissions have been based on intellectual capacity with favors for minority races through the process of affirmative action. However, recently, due to the gap in the economic status of citizens in the United States, a new method has been introduced: socioeconomic affirmative action. In order to diversify college admissions and classes, colleges should employ socioeconomic affirmative action instead of race-based affirmative action because it offers advantages based on need and affordability.

Past instances of race-based affirmative action tend to overlook details regarding other factors that are often important in determining admission criteria. Most often, this includes minority races who are not underprivileged receiving preferential treatment similar to those that are underprivileged. Arcidiacono’s paper regarding financial aid and future earnings suggests that removing preferential treatment given to minorities, blacks, particularly, has little effect on their admissions because “[they are] most likely to attend college regardless of whether affirmative action is in place” (Arcidiacono, 2005, p. 3). With or without the preferential treatment they are given, most minority students would still attend college because they don’t require the extra incentive. Additionally, Arcidiacono recognizes that students in lower-income households are “given a small advantage over other [minority] students” even though they require more advantage (Arcidiacono, 2005, p. 25). In race-based college admissions, no difference can be seen between minority students who cannot afford college and those students that are just from minority races. Thus, the use of race-based affirmative action fails to account for low-income students because it concentrates preferential treatment on only one factor, race.

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In previous years the policies surrounding race-based affirmative action have been debated to determine if this type of affirmative action is most suitable for economically fair college admissions. Some court cases suggest that race determined college admissions are beneficial for diversity and therefore should be employed. Specifically, the 1978 case of the Uni­versity of California Regents v. Bakke justified the use of race as an admission criterion because it can “improve the quality of educational experience,” (Pike, Kuh, & Gonyea, 2007, p. 1). Colleges quickly accepted this type of affirmative action because of the educational benefits associated with race-based affirmative action, especially diversified education, because they believed diversity was linked to economic value. However, later on, the Regents of the University of California banned race-conscious admissions arguing that this type of affirmative action “lowers quality by rejecting majority candidates in favor of [the] less-qualified minority [individuals]” (Chan & Eyster, 2003, p. 2). In race-conscious admissions, minority candidates are admitted over majority students based on a factor that does not necessarily impact the quality of education, diversity.

Additionally, the 2003 case of Gratz v. Bollinger et al. noted that the race-based approach could not be justified because “it automatically awarded points to all minority applicants” including those that were not qualified to attend the university (Pike, Kuh, & Gonyea, 2007, p. 1-2). Race-conscious admissions simply favor minorities no matter the quality of education they received to satisfy a diversity requirement. Admission approaches based on race do not provide a fair opportunity to majority students struggling with finances, as well, because universities are only attempting to diversify their colleges instead of working to improve the educational quality.

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