Higher education access and opportunity in a shifting legal landscape: Take a critical survey

College admissions policies tend to be closely guarded secrets, which isn’t surprising considering the high stakes and controversy surrounding admissions considerations. But if race-neutral alternatives become the dominant driver for diversity, admissions officers cannot afford to work in an information vacuum. AACRAO, ACE and partners are looking to admissions directors and enrollment management leaders to participate in a confidential survey. This survey will form the backbone of the research effort, so participation is critical. Study participants will receive an early embargoed copy of the study and will be invited to participate in dissemination activities including release convenings in the summer of 2015. This study will focus on how research, practitioner, and legal communities can better support institutions seeking to enroll diverse student bodies.

Please participate in this groundbreaking study to examine how legal challenges to race-conscious admissions have affected contemporary admissions at selective colleges and universities. Complete the survey at www.acenet.edu/admissionssurvey or email admissionssurvey@acenet.eduThe research, undertaken by the American Council on Education’s (ACE) Center for Policy Research and Strategy in partnership with American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, the  UCLA Civil Rights Project, Center for College & Career Success in Pearson’s Research and  Innovation Network, National Association for College Admissions Counseling, The College Board, and Education Counsel, is intended to address a critical knowledge gap in higher education and create new communication avenues through which institutions can share leading practices and strategies for supporting campus diversity now and in the future.

Race-conscious admissions: Legal challenges

Efforts to increase racial diversity in higher education are currently under investigation.   Recent rulings by the Supreme Court suggest that it is unlikely to completely reverse state actions to rein in race conscious admissions.   In contrast, higher education is slowly gearing up to address another widely acknowledged shortcoming: the lack of economic diversity on top college campuses.  These efforts are preparing universities to deal with an era when race conscious admissions policies are greatly constrained.

We know that opposition to race conscious policies is gaining momentum. What we do not know is what admissions deans and enrollment professionals are planning to do about it. According to a recently published book, The Future of Affirmative Action: New Paths to Higher Education Diversity after Fisher v. University of Texas, universities must adapt and find new ways to support diversity.

The Supreme Court’s decisions affecting race conscious admission policies present opportunities for educators to develop and implement innovative diversity strategies to advance their goal of increasing access and opportunity on college campuses.

Public institutions in some states have been operating under race-neutral policies for years. In other states, public and private institutions have begun revisiting and revising their strategies to prepare for a time when race-conscious policies may no longer be allowed. Research suggests admissions based on socioeconomic class would increase representation of African American and Hispanic students, who are currently underrepresented at many selective schools.

Such efforts have great potential to enhance economic and racial diversity concurrently.  According to an article by David Leonhardt in the New York Times, many talented students, measured by grades and SAT scores, fail to attend selective colleges and many never graduate from any college.  Several institutions have made recruiting a more economically diverse student body a top priority during the past decade.   Many schools, such as Vassar and Grinnel, have made notable progress, though increasing economic diversity usually translates into lower revenues and, therefore, compromises in other areas. 

2 National Student Clearinghouse reports & Free webinar

High School Benchmarks. The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center recently released its second annual High School Benchmarks report, which covers public and private high schools graduating more than 3.5 million students, from all 50 states.  The report provides benchmarks that enable high schools to compare their graduates’ college transition rates nationwide, including those serving low income and minority students. The document makes significant contributions to current policy discussions regarding equitable access, outcomes of secondary education, and diversity issues. 

Potential completers signature report. In its most recent Signature Report, the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center found that 31 million students who enrolled in college during the past 20 years left without receiving any degree or certificate. Two-thirds of them enrolled in colleges and universities for multiple terms and many attended more than one institution. In this session, we will review the characteristics and postsecondary education enrollment patterns of these multiple-term enrollees. A particular focus will be on a group of "potential completers," students who made at least two years' worth of progress before leaving. Implications for institutions will also be discussed during the Q & A following the webinar.

To learn more and to register, click here.