The above is a link to the NY Times Online Edition, which requires registration, but which is free and worth it. It points to an article about what looks like it could be the beginning of the end of race and sex based scholarships at universities here in the US.
This is obviously a huge and gnarled topic, but I do wonder about a few points in particular. Back when I was in high school, considering college at Bedrock University, my guidance counselor-when not hammering home the fact I was not college material-was constantly pushing this big book in my face; a thick tome full of perhaps tens of thousands of financial aid grants and programs. The idea was that if you kept at it long enough, you would find, among all the hyper-specific criteria, the specific grant or grants that was set aside for you, a half-Inuit single mother of two blind girls from the Greater East Texas area. If these broad race and gender-based programs are struck down, what happens to these more finicky options? Do they go away? That doesn't seem right.
If I am a rich person, don't I have the right to start any damn scholarship I want?
Now that I think of it, perhaps that is the case, and perhaps some of these programs at places like Michigan University will have to be farmed out to off-campus organizations. Boy, I hate it when I talk myself into needing to reread the article!
This does bring up a view I should come clean on. I'm not a huge fan of race-based affirmative action. I just haven't heard the argument yet that has convinced me that a need-based system could not be set up that does the same thing in a color-blind fashion. If you believe that different races in this country have had different levels of opportunity, which I certainly hope 99% of people here acknowledge, then certainly it stands to reason that those with the least amount of opportunity will at this point in our history have the greatest amount of need. So a need-based system should scoop up a disproportionate amount of those from those races. (Ach! Just using that word is ridiculous in itself! In a hundred years we will be laughed at by school children as the last few generations who didn't understand genetics well enough to realize "race" was an illusion.)
Strip away all the data besides grades, activities, income, etc. Why should a college admissions board need to know the names or neighborhoods of student hopefuls? There are some interesting ideas in the story, like giving people points for being the first person in their family to go to college. That's a great idea, I think, if you want to round out the student body with different folks.
Economic diversity will bring with it racial diversity, in my mind...and now for the part where I go off the deep end...is it just possible that as long as the large percentage of people in this country who are struggling to make it day to day, week to week are pitted against each other over race, it makes it easier for the tiny percentage of people in this country who run everything to unite over cash?
(Edited to say that of course, I went out to see a friend's film last night and speaking about this subject, heard a couple really good arguments for race-over-need based scholarships.)