by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
America’s top medical schools, worried they have too few minority students, are doing something about it. They are lowering academic standards for admission and trying to hide the evidence. Columbia, Harvard, the University of Chicago, Stanford, Mount Sinai, and the University of Pennsylvania have already done so. The list already tops forty, and more are sure to follow.
Of course, the universities won’t admit what they are doing – and certainly not why. All they will say is that their new standards add “equity” and “lived experience.” Unfortunately, adding those factors inevitably lessens the weight given to others.
The harsh reality is medical schools are downplaying academic achievement and MCAT scores, which give the best evidence of how well students are prepared for medical school. The MCAT is specifically tailored for that purpose. In addition to a section on critical reasoning (similar to the SATs), it examines students on biology and biochemistry, organic chemistry, the physics of living systems, and the biological and psychological foundations of behavior. It’s easy to see how those relate directly to higher education in medical science. Yet med schools want to downplay them and add inherently subjective criteria like “lived experience.”
Med schools are especially eager to get rid of the MCATs. After years of evaluating admissions folders, they know they cannot meet their goals for minority enrollment if they retain their near-total emphasis on academic qualifications. They know, too, that standardized tests and grades leave a statistical trail. They want to kick dust over that trail before the Supreme Court’s expected ruling against affirmative action. They fear the statistics will show marked differences in admission rates for individuals from different groups who have similar scores and GPAs. That’s not a wild guess. Admission teams know the evidence from years of experience.