MEDICAL SCHOOL: Minority Enrollment Increases Despite Affirmative Action Ban
"The number of minorities attending the University of California's five medical schools rose slightly for the 1998-99 academic year compared with the" previous year's enrollment, marking the first increase since the implementation of Proposition 209. This week's issue of Modern Healthcare reports that the 1996 voter initiative banning affirmative action policies at all public institutions "has not affected the admissions process, according to a university official." After weathering several court challenges, the initiative was implemented in the summer of 1997, with little impact on the number of minorities matriculating in UC's medical schools. The minority composition of this year's class saw a 1.4% increase over the 1997-98 year, boosting enrollment from 71 minority students to 72. However, UC spokesperson Terry Lightfoot contended the results were significant, as 13% fewer minority students applied to the schools this year. "We're pleased we were able to hold the line; it's been a challenge for the university."
The Numbers, Please
Modern Healthcare reports that "Latinos enjoyed the greatest" enrollment gains in 1998-99, with 95 accepted and 45 matriculating in the UC medical school system. This year's figures are up from the 1997-98 year, which saw the acceptance of 91 Latinos and the matriculation of 39. But although slightly more African Americans were accepted this year than last year, 51 and 47, respectively, only 24 enrolled in 1989-99 compared to 27 the previous year. In contrast, Asians "have enjoyed great gains since preferences were lifted, by taking spaces previously given to other minorities." This year, 425 were accepted and 214 enrolled, compared with 400 accepted and 201 matriculated last year. Similarly, "[i]n 1995-96, the last year with affirmative action admissions, 338 were accepted and 159 enrolled. Modern Healthcare notes that nearly "7.5% of total minority applicants were accepted to UC medical schools this academic year, compared with 6.4% in the 1997-98 and 1996-97 academic years, and 6.7% in 1995-96." Lightfoot asserts that the enrollment makeup "reflect[s] nationwide fluctuations in medical school enrollments." Although overall minority applications are down, he said, "those minorities applying have been more competitive, with higher grades and admission test scores" (Shinkman, 10/26 issue).
Appealing In Washington
California medical students signed a letter urging students in Washington State to oppose Initiative 200, the state ballot measure to ban affirmative action. The letter, read by an American Association of Medical Colleges representative at the University of Washington on Oct. 21 reads: "Tragically, with the dismantling of affirmative action in California, enrollments in 1997 and 1998 for African American, Latino and Native American undergraduates and medical students have plummeted ... [Initiative 200] will have devastating consequences for higher education in the state of Washington" (AAMC release, 10/26). The AAMC has reacted with concern to the drop in minority applications and "campaigned vigorously against efforts to eliminate affirmative action." AAMC President Jordan Cohen concedes that students admitted under affirmative action policies often are less qualified academically than the total enrollment pool. However, he said, "Their aspirations have been undermined by a regressive policy" now in place (Modern Healthcare, 10/26 issue). Click here for previous CHL coverage of minority enrollment in medical schools.