President Bush incorrectly labels the University of Michigan admissions process a "quota" system ["Bush Declares Opposition to Race-Based Admissions," front page, Jan. 16]. The university considers multiple factors as positive additions to an application and in no way sets a quota for a number of minority students to be admitted.

To extend the president's logic, no university (not even Yale) should be allowed to consider factors such as family legacy at the institution, which tends to favor white applicants. The equal opportunity argument put forward by Mr. Bush and other opponents of this policy is valid only if a level playing field exists for all applicants.

However, equal opportunity could also be cited when discussing the distinct advantages enjoyed by students who have access to new textbooks, computers, standardized test prep courses and private tutoring, as compared with economically challenged, and often minority, students.

ROSS HAMMERSLEY

Los Angeles

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President Bush calls race-based preferences "divisive" and "unfair." The reality is that many African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans and other minorities suffer in woefully inadequate public schools that don't prepare them for the rigors of a college education. The gap between poor and rich communities in funding to public schools is a chasm, yet a basic education is a right equally guaranteed to all in this country.

How can those from underprivileged backgrounds be expected to compete in the college admissions game?

I would propose a system that gives additional points to college applicants who are "educationally disadvantaged" -- regardless of race. Such a system should be an interim measure, until equal educational funding is available to every child. Then we can dispense with preference categories of any kind.

CARMEN CORS

New York

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President Bush appears to have benefited from a policy that allowed him, as the son of a Yale alumnus, to attend his father's school. Policies that favor the children of alumni tend to benefit the wealthy and the white. This is the worst kind of affirmative action.

JULIE REILEY

Bethesda

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The University of Michigan awards as many as 20 "points" to members of underrepresented minority groups, and this is the issue in the case before the Supreme Court.

Yes, the awarding of these points clearly discriminates against members of non-minority groups. But the university also awards four points for "legacy," defined as having a parent or stepparent who attended the institution; five points for men in nursing; 20 points for a scholarship athlete; and 20 points at the "provost's discretion," which is arbitrary.

What should be apparent is that merit alone does not guarantee admission to our higher education institutions. Universities would be wise to focus on their entire process, rather than singling out race, before a student in next year's applicant pool decides that he or she has been unfairly discriminated against in favor of a "legacy."

JEROME JACKSON JR.

Falls Church