Among first-year law students, Sander reports, 52 percent of blacks earn grades that put them in the lowest 10 percent of their class. Only 8 percent of blacks earn grades in the top half of their class. And their performance does not improve with time. About 19 percent of black students in this study dropped out without completing law school, compared with 8 percent of white students. Of those who completed law school, however, about half continued to earn grades that put them at the bottom 10 percent of their class. Consequently, only about 45 percent of black law school graduates pass their bar exams on their first attempt, compared with about 80 percent of white graduates.
Sander estimates that if black students were admitted through a race-blind process, so that their skills were properly matched to the schools' own admissions criteria, far more black students would do well, graduate and pass the bar. He estimates that the end of racial preferences could end up producing nearly 10 percent more black lawyers.
My own Center for Equal Opportunity has published studies of 57 public colleges and universities and nine professional schools revealing the extent of racial preferences, which are both wide and deep -- affecting not only the most elite schools but even less competitive colleges, and providing a very substantial advantage in admissions to blacks and to somewhat less extent, Latinos. We've shown that, judging from their tests scores and grade point averages, black students, in particular, are often admitted to schools for which they are poorly prepared, and we've reported that they are less likely to graduate from these schools. But we've seldom had access to data to show how they performed while in school. Prof. Sander has now provided that data -- and the picture it paints are gloomy indeed.
Racial preferences not only harm whites and Asians who are passed over for admissions to colleges and professional schools in favor of less qualified blacks and Latinos, they do real harm to the very students they were intended to help.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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