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Affirmative Action Goes to Debate in the US Supreme Court
University admissions in the United States might be set to change forever as the Supreme Court hears two cases concerning race-based admissions policies at elite institutions like Harvard University and the University of North Carolina. Affirmative action helps underrepresented groups to gain admission to colleges where, for centuries, they have been underrepresented. This Supreme Court case is the latest in a spate of disputes surrounding admissions at top colleges in the US, with institutions coming under fire for their policies, fee structures and general admissions philosophies. A decision on the two cases will likely be delivered in June, 2023. However, verdicts could be different for Harvard, a private institution, and UNC, a public university that has to abide by an additional set of rules. If the Supreme Court blocks the ability of universities to consider race, there will be a significant drop in the number of students of color being admitted to elite and selective universities. This could also have a knock-on effect on employers who work to diversify their workforces.
Columbia Falls in the Rankings from #2 to #18
College rankings in the United States came under fire when Columbia University dropped to the #18 from the #2 spot in the U.S. News & World Report's annual college rankings after admitting it had submitted inaccurate data in earlier years — the university has not ranked as low as #18 since 1988. Columbia faculty member, Professor Michael Thaddeus, scrutinized the university’s place in the U.S. News rankings, questioning the accuracy of the data the University had submitted. U.S. News relies heavily on data self-reported by universities to compile its rankings, which substantially influences students' college choices. “The broader lesson everyone should keep in mind is that U.S. News has shown its operations are so shoddy that both of [the rankings] are meaningless,” Thaddeus said. “If any institution can decline from No 2 to No 18 in a single year, it just discredits the whole ranking operation,” he adds.
Top Law Schools Pull Out of US News Rankings
In a further blow to college rankings, more than 14 of the top law schools pulled out of the US News & World Report’s annual rankings. Nine of the so-called T-14 elite law schools, including Yale, UCLA, UC Irvine, Berkeley, Columbia, Duke, Georgetown, Harvard, Michigan, Northwestern, and Stanford pledged to stop submitting internal data for the U.S. News. “The rankings rely on flawed survey techniques and opaque and arbitrary formulas, lacking the transparency needed to help applicants make truly informed decisions,” wrote Kerry Abrams, dean of Duke Law. Meanwhile, U.S. News said it will continue to rank law schools even without their participation.
Demand for Oxbridge Falls for the First Time in Eight Years
In the UK, the number of aspiring students applying to Oxbridge and other prestigious degree programmes like medicine, fell for the first time in eight years. Demand for such courses, which have an earlier application deadline than for other university degrees, fell by 3,720, or almost 5%, to 74,090, according to figures published by Ucas. Undergraduate applications at the University of Cambridge fell by 5% this year, to roughly 21,500 applicants. This is the second year in a row that applications to study at Cambridge have fallen, following a drop of 0.4% last year. Similar trends were reported at the University of Oxford, which saw a decrease in applicants of 2.6%. The 5% fall in Cambridge applications was driven by a 7% decrease in applications from UK students. At Oxford, UK applications increased by 0.4%, with an overall 2.6% decline in applications being driven by a 12.2% drop in EU applications, and a 6.4% fall in overseas applications as a whole. The drop in applications is being attributed to a rise in living costs in the UK following the Covid pandemic and Brexit.
US Universities Receive Record Number of Applications for 2027
And finally, enrollment numbers at US institutions seem to be on the rise after two years of decline, based on data released by the Common App. Initial data shows a 24% increase in distinct first-year applicants since the last pre-pandemic cycle in 2019-2020. Many elite universities saw some of the most competitive application cycles in their history. UPenn received its highest volume of early applicants, totaling over 8,000. Yale saw its second-highest number of early applicants ever received, along with the lowest early acceptance rate in the last 20 years. Harvard reported that its acceptance rate of 7.56% is the second lowest for the early round of admissions to date. Duke also announced its lowest early admissions acceptance rate this year at 16.5%—down from 21% last year. The demand has been so high that many schools have announced a second round of Early Decision admissions that will be revealed in February.