A recent New York Times article claims that a medical school in Northern California has created a “disadvantage scale” to evaluate student candidates and choose those with the highest “adversity scores.”
The “socioeconomic disadvantage scale,” commonly known as “S.E.D.,” was developed by Dr. Mark Henderson, the associate dean of admissions at the Univ. of California, Davis, School of Medicine, and uses a scale from zero to ninety-nine to indicate how disadvantaged an applicant is.
The S.E.D. scores of student candidates are used in part to determine admission to the medical school.
According to data from the Association of American Medical Colleges, 20% or more of medical students’ families make over $100,000 annually. According to the organization, children of doctors have a 24 times higher likelihood of becoming doctors than their peers.
The ranking system was introduced in 2012, and Henderson thought it would narrow the “staggering economic divide between medical students and the general population.”
The scale examines candidates based on eight criteria, such as “the family incomes, whether or not applicants come from a particularly underserved area, whether or not they assist in supporting their nuclear families, and whether or not their parents attended college,” according to the Times.
According to Henderson, those with doctors as parents earned a zero.
Henderson pointed out that while grades, test results, and essays are also taken into consideration when evaluating students, there is no set procedure for comparing an applicant’s S.E.D. score to their academic performance.
84% of the 133 students in the institution’s most recent incoming class, according to the school, were from “disadvantaged backgrounds,” with 60% of them being female, 42% being first-generation college attendees, 36% being Asian, 30% being Hispanic, and 14% being African-American.
Other institutions have indicated interest in implementing UC Davis’ disadvantage ranking methodology to increase campus diversity in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s most recent ruling to ban affirmative action.
Henderson claims that roughly 20 colleges have been in touch with UC Davis to ask for more details regarding their ranking methodology.
After the Supreme Court rejected affirmative action this week, President Biden stated that his administration will establish a “new norm for institutions taking into consideration the hardships that a student has overcome.”
According to Henderson, “I would call it class-based affirmative actions,” Stat News in March. “We avoided the issue because of the significant overlap between class struggles and racial issues.”