Looks Who’s Under-Represented Now in UVa Entering Classes

by James A. Bacon

As the debate unfolds about how to apply the U.S. Supreme Court ruling restricting the use of race as a factor in college admissions, it would be helpful for the discussion to be rooted in reality. At the University of Virginia, any dialogue should be based upon the recognition that admissions policies have transformed the racial/ethnic profile of the undergraduate student body over the past 10 years.

According to enrollment data published by the State Council for Higher Education in Virginia (SCHEV), the racial/ethnic make-up of students entering UVa for the first time (as first-year students or community college transfers) has changed significantly between the fall of 2013-14 and the fall of 2020-23:

Remarkably, the percentage of undergraduate White students has declined from 59.3% of the entering class at UVa to 46.9% over a single decade. Non-Hispanic Whites are now a minority.

For purposes of comparison, non-Hispanic Whites account for 57% of Virginia’s population and 48% of all public high school students. If we adjust the comparison to include private school students, who are disproportionately White and account for 11% of Virginia school enrollment, it would appear that non-Hispanic Whites are now under-represented among entering undergraduate students at UVa.

A logical question arises: How does the transformation of the UVa student body compare to admissions trends in Virginia’s higher-education system as a whole? Do the enrollment numbers reflect statewide trends affecting all institutions, or are they the result of policies specific to UVa?

To some degree, UVa’s enrollment reflects the changing demographics of Virginia’s college-bound youth. More Asians, Blacks and Hispanics are enrolling in the state’s four-year colleges, while the White college population has declined over the past decade. Here are the numbers for all first-time enrollees at Virginia four-year institutions (both public and private):

However, broader enrollment trends do not fully account for the change in UVa enrollment numbers. UVa enrollments depart significantly from the statewide trend. While the number of entering Asians surged 68.2% statewide, they shot up 89.2% at UVa. Similarly, while Black enrollment leaped ahead 33.8% statewide, it increased 54.7% at UVa. (The increase in the percentage of Hispanics at UVa rose, but the rise lagged statewide figures.)

Here is the most notable departure from the statewide pattern: While White enrollment in Virginia four-year institutions declined 15.5% statewide, it collapsed by 30.4% at UVa. 

Despite evidence that Asians are discriminated against in admissions — their percentages of UVa enrollment would be even higher if based purely upon measures of academic achievement such as standardized test scores and high school grade-point averages — their numbers have surged. The numbers of Blacks and Hispanics have also seen robust increases at UVa.

Non-Hispanic Whites have been the big losers from changes in UVa admissions policies over the past decade. Given the fact that Whites were under-represented in the latest entering class, can it also be said that UVa admissions discriminate against Whites?

That’s a trickier question that hinges in part upon how one defines “discriminate.” If admissions criteria are based entirely upon standardized test scores and grade-point averages, then, yes, UVa discriminates against Whites and Asians in favor of Blacks and Hispanics. If admissions criteria incorporate traits such as personality, character, and a demonstrated ability to overcome adversity, then not necessarily. The question then becomes how objective those criteria are and how subject they are to bias in favor of the so-called marginalized groups.

As the Ryan administration sorts out the implications of the Supreme Court ruling, it will be impossible for the UVa community to engage in an informed dialogue without a clear statement of the admissions criteria, the weights those criteria are given, and the process by which admissions decisions are made. Without greater openness, any discussion will be fraught with unknowns, ambiguity and conflicting narratives disconnected from reality.

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Thomas C. Hodgson, II
Thomas C. Hodgson, II
8 months ago

Jim,
Your final paragraph nailed the crux of the matter. Unless the BOV makes it clear to Ryan, et al that, within a specified period of time, all admission policies, requirements, etc. must be made fully public, UVA will follow in Harvard’s footsteps and simply table the latest Supreme Court ruling by muddling its so called “response” to fit the ruling’s seeming loopholes. By their own public statements, both Ryan and Beacom are in opposition to the ruling. Ergo, UVA will proceed with a verbiage campaign that will end up producing, at best, a few lip-service admission alterations… otherwise, it will be business as usual. These two UVA officers must be told what to do, not merely asked… and surely not be left to their own means, decision wise, in regard to this crucial matter.

Sincerely,

Tom

Thomas C. Hodgson, II

GRob
GRob
8 months ago

If they had any commitment to diversity they would work on their monolithic Leftist faculty and administration.

James B Newman
James B Newman
8 months ago

Sadly the nonsense at the University continues as to DEI etc. The reality is that the “reconstituted” BOV needs to institute guardrails as to admission to the University to ensure that the appropriate interpretation and observance of the Supreme Court’s ruling as to affirmative action becomes the RULE not a suggestion at the Office of Admissions. The Ryan crew seeks to preserve affirmative action by representing that it is “fair” when in fact it is racial discrimination by another name.

Wahoo74
Wahoo74
7 months ago

Jim, excellent and objective analysis. The facts clearly prove UVA is not “systemically racist” as defined by DEI Dean Kevin McDonald’s $8MM massive bureaucracy. Since that is factually proven to be the case, what is the DEI division’s purpose? Besides continually bemoaning prior discrimination that hasn’t existed at UVA for over half a century, what do Dean McDonald et al do all day?

As former Rector Jim Murray suggested at the last BOV meeting, why not drastically reduce (daresay eliminate?) the DEI bureaucracy then reduce tuition costs or create scholarships by a like amount?

Let’s hope the 8 Youngkin BOV appointees in conjunction with Mr. Murray and perhaps other BOV members to do just that.