While supporters and opponents of race-conscious admissions policies clash over whether minority applicants should receive 20 bonus points under the LSA admissions policy, some students on both sides of the debate say LSA is justified in granting the same amount of points to socioeconomically disadvantaged applicants.

One of the two lawsuits set to be heard April 1 by the U.S. Supreme Court challenges LSA’s policy of giving black, Hispanic and Native American applicants 20 points. But prospective students whom the University determines to be from a socioeconomically disadvantaged background will also receive 20 points.

That background can include working through high school to support a family, suffering child abuse, being orphaned and attending high schools in poor communities.

University spokeswoman Julie Peterson said such students receive points because, like minorities, their perspectives contribute to diversifying the student body and eliminating stereotypes.

She added that overcoming great obstacles is a sign of the type of motivation needed to succeed at the University.

Michigan Student Assembly Communications Chair Pete Woiwode, a member of Students Supporting Affirmative Action, said the plus factor is needed to level the playing field for poorer students.

“Those who have more money have an opportunity to go to better schools,” Woiwode said. “It’s short-sighted and ignorant to say the advantages granted to people with money are not similar to the advantages granted to Caucasians.”

Agnes Aleobua, a member of the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action and Integration and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary, said poor students do not have the same access to quality counseling or standardized preparation classes.

LSA junior Ruben Duran, managing editor of the conservative journal The Michigan Review, said while he does not support the use of race as an admissions factor, he does support socioeconomic points. But unlike affirmative action supporters, Duran said a socioeconomic plus factor is a more effective way to achieve diversity.

“Unlike skin color, the socioeconomic background contributes a lot more,” he said. “The way you grow up and the way you live is a much bigger facet of your personality.”

In lieu of the socioeconomic and racial plus factors, applicants can receive 20-point bonuses for athletic ability or at the discretion of the University Provost.

Admissions officers use an applicant’s personal essay, parents’ occupations and high school location to determine whether they are eligible for the socioeconomic points, Peterson said.

But officers also have access to information from counselors, she said, and can contact the counselors to ensure an applicant comes from a disadvantaged background.

Some students believe University admissions policies should only consider academic factors to ensure that the most qualified applicants are admitted.

In principle, admissions should be based on academic merit, LSA junior and External Vice President of College Republicans Kristen Klanow said. “The problem we run into is where the (academic) standards aren’t met.”

LSA sophomore Laura Billet said the policy is not fair toward disadvantaged students who would qualify without the 20 points.

But the benefit of creating a diverse student body outweighs the rejection of some applicants with higher grades and test scores, LSA freshman Julia Carpenter said.

“If the University didn’t have such a system, the majority of people here would be from upper-class, suburban backgrounds,” she said.

Peterson said separate bonuses are granted to minorities and socioeconomically disadvantaged students because they do not share the same experiences.

She added that since the majority of poor applicants are white, without the 20 bonus points for race the University would not be able to achieve significant minority enrollment.

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