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Last Updated: Oct 11, 2012 - 10:22:56 PM
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Severe discrimination based on race and ethnicity in medical-school admissions at University of Michigan

Oct 17, 2006 - 8:21:00 PM , Reviewed by: Venkat Yelamanchili
The odds ratio favoring black applicants over whites was 21 to 1 in 2005.

[RxPG] Three studies released today by the Center for Equal Opportunity document evidence of severe discrimination based on race and ethnicity in undergraduate, law, and medical school admissions at the University of Michigan.

The studies are based on data supplied by the University itself, pursuant to freedom-of-information requests filed by CEO and the Michigan Association of Scholars.

Linda Chavez said: “Racial discrimination in university admissions is always appalling. But what is really remarkable is that the weight given to race by the University of Michigan in its undergraduate admissions is actually heavier now than under the system that was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2003. If the old system was too heavy-handed to pass legal muster, then how can the new system be defended? The Supreme Court has obviously had no effect on stopping UM’s discrimination.”

Roger Clegg agreed. “It is clear that, left to their own devices, universities will not end the racial discrimination that Justice O’Connor said she expected to end in 25 years. Fortunately, in Michigan, the voters will have the opportunity in a few weeks to ‘Vote yes on 2’ and require that taxpayer-supported, public institutions like UM treat all Michiganders without regard to their skin color or what country their ancestors came from.”

Severe discrimination favoring African American applicants over white and Asian applicants was found at all three schools in all four years for which data were received (1999, 2003, 2004, and 2005, the most recent year for which data were available). Hispanics were also favored, but by less; frequently whites were given preferences over Asians, although to a still smaller extent. In all three studies, the data received from the university were analyzed to calculate: (1) the gaps in academic qualifications among admitted students; (2) the number of nonblack students who were rejected even though they had better academic qualifications than the median black admittee; (3) the odds ratios for the three minority groups relative to whites; and (4) the probabilities of admission for students of different races but with the same academic credentials (test scores and grades) and background (in particular, in-state applicants with no parental alumni/ae). For the undergraduate and medical school students, the subsequent academic performance of students after admission to UM was analyzed (the law school did not provide the data needed for such an analysis).

Undergraduate Admissions

In the most recent year (2005), the median black admittee’s SAT score was 1160, versus 1260 for Hispanics, 1350 for whites, and 1400 for Asians. High school GPAs were 3.4 for the median black, 3.6 for Hispanics, 3.8 for Asians, and 3.9 for whites.

In the four years analyzed, UM rejected over 8000 Hispanics, Asians, and whites who had higher SAT or ACT scores and GPAs than the median black admittee--including nearly 2700 students in 2005 alone.

The black-to-white odds ratio for 2005 was 70 to 1 among students taking the SAT, and 63 to 1 for students taking the ACT. (To put this in perspective, the odds ratio for nonsmokers versus smokers dying from lung cancer is only 14 to 1.) In terms of probability of admissions in 2005, black and Hispanic students with a 1240 SAT and a 3.2 high school GPA, for instance, had a 9 out of 10 chance of admissions, while whites and Asians in this group had only a 1 out of 10 chance. These disparities are reflected in subsequent academic performance at the University of Michigan, where blacks and Hispanics earn lower grades, and are less likely to be in the honors program and more likely to be on academic probation, than whites and Asians.

It is noteworthy that race and ethnicity are apparently more heavily weighted in admissions now than in the system declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

Medical School Admissions

Black admittees had substantially lower MCAT scores and undergraduate science GPAs compared to other groups; Hispanic admittees’ scores and grades were higher; and whites’ and Asians’ the highest (with Asian GPAs slightly higher than whites’).

During the four years for which we received data, 11,647 Hispanic, Asian, and white students (or nearly 3000 students each year) who earned higher undergraduate grades and scored higher on the MCAT than the median black admittee were nonetheless rejected.

The odds ratio favoring black applicants over whites was 21 to 1 in 2005.

Likewise, differences in probabilities of admission in 2005 were dramatic. For instance, students with an MCAT total of 41 and an undergraduate science GPA of 3.6 have these probabilities of admission: 74 percent if black and 43 percent if Hispanic, but only 12 percent if white and 6 percent if Asian. For those with a 42 MCAT and 3.7 GPA: 85 percent if black and 59 percent if Hispanic, but only 21 percent if white and 11 percent if Asian. Finally, for those with a 43 MCAT and at 3.8 GPA, black applicants have a 9 out of 10 chance of admission (91 percent) and Hispanics a 3 out of 4 chance (73 percent), but whites have only a 1 out of 3 chance (33 percent) and Asians only a 1 out of 5 chance (19 percent). Gaps in USMLE Step 1 scores--this is a licensing exam taken after the first two years of medical school--parallel racial/ethnic differences in entering qualifications. White and Asian median scores are substantially higher than 75th percentile black scores.

Publication: The studies were prepared by Dr. Althea Nagai, a research fellow at CEO, and can be viewed on the organization’s website, www.ceousa.org.
On the web: Racial and Ethnic Admission Preferences at the University of Michigan Medical School 

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