Colleges to implement 'adversity scores' in admissions after Supreme Court rejected race-based admissions

“I’d call it class-based affirmative action."


The University of California Davis School of Medicine has developed a “disadvantage scale” system that helps select students based on their “adversity scores.” This comes after the Supreme Court tossed affirmative action last week. 

The socioeconomic disadvantage scale (SED) was developed by Dr. Mark Henderson, the associate dean of admissions at the university. The system rates an applicant’s adversity from zero to 99, according to the New York Times.

“I’d call it class-based affirmative action,” Henderson said. “Class struggles have a huge overlap with race – that’s how we skirted the issue.”

In California, where affirmative action was banned in 1996, SED has been used to tackle the “staggering economic gap between medical students and the general public.” The report noted that the Association of American Medical Colleges found that over 50 percent of medical students’ families earn the top 20 percent of income. As a result, these wealthy students are 24 times more likely to become doctors than their peers.

Henderson said applicants whose parents are physicians received a score of zero on the SED. But students are also considered on their grades, essays, and test scores. However, it was noted that Henderson does not have a formula for weighing an SED score against an applicant’s academic record, according to the report.

UC Davis provided a report that revealed 84 percent of the 133 students in the most recent class came from “disadvantaged backgrounds.” The report included that 60 percent were females, 42 percent were first-generation college students, 36 percent were Asian, 30 percent Hispanic, and then 14 percent were African American.

Henderson said that around 20 other schools have contacted UC Davis to request details about the SED ranking system. This comes after President Joe Biden claimed that his administration would create a “new standard for colleges taking into account the adversity a student has overcome.”
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