Opinion: An alternative solution to affirmative action

Guest Commentary / Opinion / Our Readers Write:

As a high school student, I've been closely following the recent racial discrimination lawsuit filed against Harvard University on behalf of Asian-Americans, which will be soon heard in the Supreme Court.

The same court has ruled in the past that having diversity is a laudable goal and colleges have to use race-neutral means first to achieve this, and race should only be used as a last resort. But the most selective colleges have failed to do that.

I do indeed support policies that help minorities without using race as one of the factors, but rather using the student's "socioeconomic status" as a factor. California, the most progressive State in the nation, instituted a race-neutral policy for college admissions through the California Civil Rights Initiative (Proposition 209) in 1996. Here, "diversity" in the school was addressed by admitting certain groups of students to one of the nine UC campuses.

In order to be in this select group, a student has to be either in the top 9 percent of all eligible students in California, or be in the top 9 percent of eligible students in each school.

However, my concern lies in providing a decent education to students who are part of the other 91 percent of the student population not offered admission to any of the UC schools, and who come from a low socioeconomic status.

A good education opens up opportunities for students that otherwise would not be possible. Any form of education provided to underprivileged students can change their lives drastically.

Sadly, education is becoming increasingly difficult for them to access. Many recent refugees and immigrants, whom I work with through my non-profit, have come here for better opportunities. I have observed that they have issues understanding the complexities involved in college admissions, and are not able to afford to pay the cost of college tuition.

I propose that these students be offered admission to community colleges with free tuition, and a guaranteed transfer to any one of the state colleges, UC campuses or Ivy-League schools with financial aid, based on academic performance and need.

Our immediate past president, Barack Obama, is a living testament to the success of this model. I strongly believe that education is the ticket out of poverty for many of these students, and aspire to be their voice and advocate.

— Sarina Krishnan is a junior at The Bishop's School in La Jolla.

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