Poster Paper: The Impact of Banning Affirmative Action in Higher Education: A Case Study of Oklahoma

Friday, April 12, 2019
Continuing Education Building - Room 2070 - 2090 (University of California, Irvine)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Thao P Pham, University of Illinois at Chicago

In 2012, more than two hundred thousand voters in Oklahoma approved a statewide ban on affirmative action in higher education, making it the eighth state—alongside Arizona, California, Florida, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, and Washington—to officially eliminate this practice in public college and university admissions. As a result, public institutions in Oklahoma may no longer consider race or ethnicity as factors in admission decisions. Banning affirmative action in higher education in Oklahoma has implications not only for enrollment patterns but for the degree of racial and ethnic diversity on public campuses. Yet since this 2012 policy change, little scholarly attention has been paid to its impact upon enrollment patterns in Oklahoma public colleges and universities. Accordingly, this study seeks to remedy this inattention by investigating the impact of the ban upon enrollment rates for underrepresented students.

Specifically, this study employs a difference-in-differences model to evaluate the impact of the affirmative action ban in Oklahoma with reference to the experience of Colorado, a state whose system of higher education resembles Oklahoma’s but which did not eliminate affirmative action. Data for this study consist of the enrollment figures, for both states, for all racial and ethnic groups of students in all public flagships, including both four-year and two-year public universities. The model’s results indicate that banning affirmative action led to a sharp decrease in the presence of students from the American Indian/Alaska Native census category in public colleges and universities. Oklahoma’s ban also resulted in decreases in the enrollment of Black/African American and Asian students although these declines are not as statistically significant as that experienced by the American Indian/ Alaska group. Interestingly, Oklahoma’s elimination of affirmative action appears to have no negative impact upon students in the Hispanic/ Latino group, as their enrollment actually increased slightly from 2012 to 2013. Given the lack of research regarding the impact of this policy change in Oklahoma, these findings represent a good start towards understanding the consequences of the 2012 vote and contribute to a more informed debate concerning educational policy in a state whose demographic profile is distinguished by a large population of Native Americans.