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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.


NASFAA National Conference
June 24-27, 2019. Orlando, FL
Applying Federal Non-Discrimination Laws to Financial Aid
Tuesday, June 25, 2019: 8:30 AM-9:30 AM
Southern Hemisphere III (Walt Disney World Dolphin)

Colleges and universities continue to press forward in their pursuit of diverse, inclusive learning environments where all students can benefit. In doing so, institutional leaders—especially financial aid officials—must balance using financial aid as a tool to expand opportunity and a range of legal, policy, political, and practical considerations in the awarding of financial aid. This Access and Diversity Collaborative (ADC) session will address major federal nondiscrimination laws that govern the awarding of financial aid and scholarships when factors like race, ethnicity, and gender are considered; and will offer examples that align with current federal laws and rules.

NACAC National Conference
September 26-28, 2019. Louisville, KY
Chief Enrollment Management Officers’ Forum
September 25-26, 2019

The Chief Enrollment Officers’ Forum is a 1.5 day workshop designed for the most senior enrollment and admission leaders at institutions of higher education that will focus on diversity, access and inclusion in enrollment management, financial aid, and strategic planning. On September 26, Art Coleman and David Dixon will join other Access and Diversity Collaborative leaders to present in a session titled “Achieving the Educational Benefits of Diversity—What CEMOs Need to Understand.” Additionally, on September 26 from 3:15pm-4:15pm, Access and Diversity Collaborative leaders will provide an update on federal policy and legal developments associated with higher education diversity issues, with a focus on current legal and Trump Administration policy developments.

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


  • Sponsor Meeting- Wednesday, November 6th, 8:00am-9:30am
  • Race Neutral Strategies Under Federal Non-discrimination Law: A New Lens- Friday, November 8th, 8:15am-9:15am
  • Colloquia Session- Wednesday, November 6th – Thursday, November 7th. Dates and times will be confirmed.


ADC New Publications

  1. Financial Aid and Scholarships: A Federal Non-discrimination Law Primer.
    College Board and EducationCounsel recently published a primer that:
    • Surfaces 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;
    • Synthesizes key points of law and policy in a format designed to facilitate meaningful on-the-ground dialogue and action; and
    • Offers ideas regarding strategies and design models that merit consideration among policy leaders as they seek to achieve institutional goals in legally sustainable ways.
  2. 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 Member Spotlight

  1. In May 2019, the Center for First-generation Student Success named nine ADC Institutional Sponsors as First Forward Institutions, in recognition of their commitment to enhancing the experiences and advancing the outcomes of first-generation college students.” The ADC Institutional Sponsors recognized include Florida International University, Florida State University, Northeastern University, University of Arizona, University of Georgia, University of Michigan, The University of Texas at Austin, University of Virginia, and University of Washington
  2. In March 2019, The Journal of Higher Education published “A Study of the Use of Non Academic Factors in Holistic Undergraduate Admissions Review,” authored by Don Hossler, Emily Chung, Jihye Kwon, Jerry Lucido, Nicholas Bowman, and Michael Bastedo. The study examines the ways in which nonacademic factors are used in college admissions at different types of institutions of higher education.

Environmental Context Dashboard

The Environmental Context Dashboard (ECD) is a new admissions tool that allows colleges to incorporate a student’s school and environmental context into their admissions process in a data-driven, consistent way. The Dashboard includes contextual data on the student’s neighborhood and high school. We want to make sure students, families, educators, and admissions officers have information about what data is included in the Environmental Context Dashboard and where the data comes from. For more details, click here.

Some media reports have referred to an “adversity score.” That term is inaccurate, because that’s not what the Dashboard does. To clarify:

  • The Environmental Context Dashboard doesn’t alter a student’s SAT score.
  • It does show how a student’s’ SAT score compares to those of other students in their school.
  • It doesn’t take into account any personal characteristics of a student beyond the test score.
  • It does provide admissions officers with better context about an applicant’s neighborhood and high school.

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, December 2018, and March 2019 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. The ADC will provide a same-day summary and perspective on the decision—followed soon after by a deeper analysis—once a decision is issued. The trial court’s decision will not likely end the case, as the disappointed party is expected to appeal to the first-level federal appeals court.

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; acts in a manner that indicates a lack of sincere interest in the educational benefits of diversity; and fails to use race neutral alternatives that UNC admitted in its Fisher amicus brief are workable, rendering UNC’s consideration of race unnecessary. UNC denies SFFA’s claims and argues that it actively engages diversity to gain educational benefits grounded in research; has a rigorous, high-quality admission program in which readers are unaware of the racial composition of the class; and 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 filings on 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 and decides the case without a trial.

Federal Student Aid Office

On April 15, the Federal Student Aid (FSA) Office released a set of recommendations for what colleges and universities should and should not do when issuing financial aid offers. FSA issued eight recommendations, which include the suggestion to avoid calling all financial aid an "award" (which may be misleading); avoid issuing financial aid offers that do not include cost of attendance; breakdown cost of attendance into clear components, including food and housing and other costs; avoid bundling all financial aid (e.g., grants, scholarships, loans, work-study) together; include the source of all student loans; avoid including Parent PLUS loans with student loans; include critical next steps in the financial aid offer; and include the estimated net cost in the financial aid offer.