Thursday, July 2, 2009

White firefighters case may have implications for college enrollment and affordability

In January, I blogged about a paper that argued that the rise in college graduates was due to a specific Supreme Court case, Griggs v. Duke Power, decided in 1971. The ruling implied that that any test given by employers to prospective employees was liable to be found illegal under anti-discrimination laws, unless the results were proportional to the racial makeup of the candidate pool. Without tests to determine the caliber of applicants, the study's authors suggest that employers began using college degrees to determine whether or not to hire an employee, which caused the the college boom – both in enrollment and cost – in the late '70s, which has continued up until today.

The Supreme Court, however, has just recently overturned Griggs v. Duke Power, in the controversial "white firefighters case," Ricci v. DeStefano. The media has been up in arms about it mostly because Obama's Supreme Court pick, Sonia Sotomayor, was part of the lower court which dismissed the case out of hand, finding for the city and against the white (plus one Hispanic) firefighters. But after the nomination battle is over, I'll be very interested to see if there's an uptick in aptitude testing on the part of employers, and if that results in a decline in college enrollment...and if so, if anybody even realizes why it happened.

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