Affirmative Action in Higher Education

Affirmative action is the kind of policy an institution can adopt in order to attempt to improve opportunities in life for social or ethnic groups that have been historically excluded in American history. These policies of affirmative action are usually concerned with education and employment, and in one way or another they are trying to avoid discrimination. In this article we want to focus more on affirmative action in higher education, which means that on an admissions level, attempts are made to give the same opportunities to groups which have been historically discriminated or given fewer chances, such as women or minorities.

Affirmative action in higher education is quite a controversial subject, because some are of the opinion that it becomes a reverse discrimination to try and introduce more Hispanics or African-Americans in schools. Whether that discrimination is supposed to be directed at the minorities themselves or the white majority is not very clear, and it depends on who you are talking with. For those who don’t know too many details about American history, affirmative action is basically a result of the Civil Rights Movement from the 1960s; from the beginning, its main goal was to provide more (or rather equal) opportunities of education and employment for women and minorities. It was in fact President John F. Kennedy who first used the term “affirmative action” officially in an Executive Order, and order which stated that people should be employed without discrimination towards their sex, race, creed or color, and treated the same.

Of course, one of the main concerns of affirmative action in higher education and society in general is to offer more opportunities for the African-American community, and to improve their life prospects. Although more than half a century has passed since the 1960s, discrimination and racism still occur in American society, which makes this affirmative action policy to still be valid and necessary. The fact is that affirmative action has paid off to some extent, and ever since the 60s, numerous institutions have made efforts to increase numbers of minority students or employees.

Nevertheless, statistics show that affirmative action in higher education didn’t have spectacular results either, and that there are still major differences between the number of white graduates and other minorities. For example, about 70 percent of white people enroll in college, whereas just 56 percent of African Americans enroll, and 60 percent Hispanics. These numbers are increasing every year however, and as always, progress with things like these is slow. People change little by little, and soon there will come generations of people for which racism and discrimination are just things their forefathers did, but which have no place in a modern, equal society.