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As the body of research on issues related to access and diversity in higher education grows, it’s important to develop new polices and reevaluate existing ones to ensure they remain ethical and effective.

This page features the latest access- and diversity-related news and events to keep you up to date on the latest developments in the field.


Webinar: Federal Non-Discrimination Law: Implications for Higher Education Financial Aid and Scholarship Policies and Programs

The ADC hosted a webinar on January 16, 2019. The webinar addressed the issues of federal non-discrimination law relevant to higher education financial aid and scholarship policies and programs. Also, the webinar discussed effective and sustainable financial aid program design, with attention to U.S. Department of Education Title VI policies and OCR case resolutions on the topic. In addition, the webinar provided insight into and offered ideas about strategies and action steps that can help achieve institutional goals, while also mitigating legal risk.

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Webinar: The 2018 Legal Landscape: Litigation and Agency Actions Regarding Federal Non-Discrimination Law in Higher Education

The ADC hosted a webinar on December 14th. Presenters reflected on the recent legal landscape and provided insight regarding important actions postsecondary institutions may take to continuously build the necessary evidence base to sustain their diversity efforts. Based on these developments, presenters offered insights into important higher education strategies that can advance mission-based institutional interests in ways that also mitigate legal risk.

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2019 College Board Forum

November 6 - 8, 2019. Washington, DC

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ADC New Publications

  1. Understanding Holistic Review in Higher Education Admissions: Guiding Principles and Model Illustrationswhich provides insights into the values, logic and rigor behind effective holistic review in higher education admissions. Incorporating key legal principles associated with federal court cases that have challenged the consideration of race and ethnicity in admissions, the guide discusses key features and elements of well-designed holistic review policy development and process management—with institutional examples that illustrate effective practice. The guide also calls on the higher education community to think differently about transparency and communications associated with holistic review in admissions.

ADC Upcoming Publications

  1. Financial Aid and Scholarships: A Federal Non-discrimination Law Primer. College Board and EducationCounsel will publish a financial aid primer this spring, which will:
    1. Surface key issues that should be considered in the review, evaluation, and evolution of financial aid and scholarship policies and practices to maximize their effectiveness and sustainability;
    2. Synthesize key points of law and policy in a format designed to facilitate meaningful on-the-ground dialogue and action; and
    3. Offer ideas regarding strategies and design models that merit consideration among policy leaders as they seek to achieve institutional goals in legally sustainable ways.

ADC Member Spotlight

  1. American Council on Education- On February 15, the American Council on Education published a report titled, "Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education: A Status Report." The report examines multiple indicators as they relate to higher education – both access and attainment – such as race, ethnicity, age, and location. Key findings of the report include identifying that in 2017 approximately 40 percent of U.S. adults ages 25 and older had attained an associate's degree or higher; that Asian Americans had the highest percentage of attaining a bachelor's degree (30.7%), while Hispanic Americans had the lowest percentage (12.2%); and for all Americans, there was an increase of five percentage points for attaining a bachelor's degree since 1997.
  2. Smith College- On January 30, Smith College announced a series of new inclusion, diversity, and equity initiatives with the intention of reducing the number of bias related incidents on campus. These initiatives focus on three areas: "1) policing policies and training; 2) employee training; and 3) cross-campus education focused on culture change." These initiatives are part of the institution's response to an incident of racial bias in an interaction between a student of color and a campus employee during the summer of 2018.

Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President and Fellows of Harvard College, U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.

Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President and Fellows of Harvard College, U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts. Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) alleges and Harvard denies that Harvard discriminated against Asian students by stereotyping them; that it engaged in racial balancing (caps) in admissions; and that it failed to establish evidence of need (including adequate pursuit of race-neutral alternatives) that would justify consideration of race in admissions under the Supreme Court's standards for compliance with federal law (Title VI). (See the July 2018, October 2018, and December 2018 newsletters for a fuller summary.) After a final hearing in the case on February 13, 2019, respecting the parties' proposed findings of fact and law—at which the Court also allowed time for student and organization amici—the case is in Judge Burroughs' hands for decision. At the hearing, Judge Burroughs raised challenges to both sides, including that SFFA's lack of student testimony was a "problem." Court reactions during that hearing do not necessarily reflect how the judge will ultimately rule, and the judge may take as long as she needs to make a decision.

Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, U.S. District Court for the North Carolina Middle District.

Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, U.S. District Court for the North Carolina Middle District. On January 18, 2019, the University of North Carolina (UNC) and Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) each filed motions for summary judgment asking the court to rule in their favor based on law and their written filings, rather than going to trial. In these filings, SFFA argues that UNC mechanically considers race as a dominant factor in admissions, applying materially lower standardized test score thresholds to African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans and admitting them at significantly higher rates as compared to Whites and Asians; aims to better reflect state demographics; does not aim to achieve critical mass tied to educational benefits (asserting that critical mass must be the goal, defined and measurable, but is not, and that "UNC has shown no interest in creating an academic environment where URMs will thrive academically," citing to academic struggles of African American males and the "'paper classes' scandal"); and "considers race even when the application gives no indication that race affected the student's life in any way." SFFA also asserts that UNC's use of race is unnecessary due to the availability of workable race-neutral alternatives, citing to, among others, socio-economic diversity and UNC's amicus brief filed in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin which addressed its Admission Office's 2012 study on the positive effects on diversity of implementing a top 10 percent plan.

UNC denies SFFA's claims and argues that it actively engages diversity in specific curricular and co-curricular programs to gain educational benefits grounded in research offered by UNC's expert and affirmed in 50 declarations of administrators, faculty, staff, students and alumni. Citing challenges enrolling black males, Latinos, and Native Americans as an impediment to providing all students the educational benefits of diversity, UNC asserts it considers race as a "plus" but not as a "dominant" factor in the overall admission program, and does not use racial quotas or set-asides. UNC describes the rigor and quality control embedded in its holistic review process; and asserts that readers are unaware of the racial composition of the class and UNC never revisits decisions to increase admits of any race. Additionally, UNC asserts that, over a 10-year period, two committees and the Admissions Office considered many neutral alternatives and has been unable to find any neutral alternative that would provide the same diversity and academic quality as the current model.

As in the Harvard case, SFFA and UNC have dueling data experts. SFFA and UNC each filed an opposition to the other's motions for summary judgment on March 4th, and final replies are due by April 4th. The trial date has not been set, but it is anticipated to begin in 2019, unless the court rules in favor of one of the parties on summary judgment.

Pew Research Survey: Most Americans say Colleges Shouldn't Consider Race in Admissions.

On March 4, Inside Higher Ed published an article titled "Survey finds that most Americans say colleges shouldn't consider race in admissions" which shares the findings from a January and February 2019 survey conducted by Pew Research Center in which nearly three-quarters of Americans responded that race/ethnicity should not be considered in college admissions. This opinion held steady across respondents of different races.