Most all American universities now believe that racial diversity in a general sense is sort of a good thing. Various universities have done away with specific affirmative action policies, and racial quotas are actually illegal, but diversity itself is good for colleges, right?

The trouble is it turns out that vague diversity goals don’t really promote diversity, at least not for graduate schools. Those formless policies actually end up making programs less diverse. According to an article by Peter Schmidt in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

State bans on the use of affirmative-action preferences by public colleges have resulted in significant declines in black, Hispanic, and Native American enrollments in graduate programs, with some fields hit much harder than others, concludes the first study to broadly examine the impact of such prohibitions on graduate education.

Moreover, the only race-conscious admissions policies allowed elsewhere—”holistic” admissions policies that purport to consider race and ethnicity as part of broad, subjective evaluation of applicants—cannot necessarily be trusted to promote diversity in graduate admissions, suggests a second study, of an unnamed medical school.

The study about affirmative action bans found that prohibitions resulted in a one percentage-point drop in black, Hispanic, and Native American students as a percentage of enrolled students in public graduate programs. Bans resulted in two percentage point declines in the number of minority students enrolled in specific fields like the hard sciences, engineering, the social sciences, and education.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer