- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Sixty-four percent of Americans oppose giving admissions preference to racial minorities who have lower grades and standardized test scores than other college applicants, despite 58 percent saying that affirmative-action programs contribute to society's well-being.
The survey released yesterday by the Chronicle of Higher Education also found 67 percent believe colleges and universities place too much emphasis on athletics, with 77 percent saying athletes are not held to the same academic standards as other students.
"Colleges should admit there is much less support than they think for affirmative action," Kermit L. Hall, president of Utah State University, told the Chronicle for Higher Education.
Mr. Hall has criticized the higher-education establishment's support of the University of Michigan's admissions policy, which uses race a factor. The Supreme Court is considering a challenge to Michigan's policy.
But David Ward, president of the American Council on Education, which represents the interests of higher-education institutions in Washington, told the Chronicle that lack of public support for actual affirmative-action programs, such as Michigan's, comes from misunderstanding.
"We just haven't done a good job at explaining ourselves in these areas," Mr. Ward said, particularly in the Michigan case, where undergraduate minority applicants are given a statistical advantage over whites if they meet the university's minimum admissions standards.
As for college athletics, most Americans said they believe "colleges are compromising themselves for the sake of their sports teams," according to the survey of public opinion on higher education conducted by TMR Inc. of Broomall, Pa., for the Chronicle.
Sixty-five percent said they disagreed with the argument that it is important for colleges to "play athletics for the entertainment of the community," with 23 percent saying they "strongly disagree" it's important.
Thirty-five percent said it is important for colleges to support athletics for community entertainment.
There was near-unanimous agreement 91 percent that "colleges and universities are one of the most valuable resources to the [United States]."
But only half of Americans surveyed say a four-year college degree is essential to success. A majority of women, but less than half of men, said a degree was essential, and more women than men said their degree was "very important" to their success.
Moreover, people said college costs were excessive for families and students.
Eighty-two percent said "it is very difficult for a middle-class family to afford a college education" and that many students have gone too far into debt to go to college.
Almost one-fourth of respondents in the Northeast said the federal government "should pay the largest share of a college education," while the rest of the country overwhelmingly said families of students and students themselves should pay the most.

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