The latest happenings in federal education policy and national news
The Access and Diversity Collaborative's Quarterly Update
News and Developments of Note
July 2018
The College Board's Access and Diversity Collaborative (ADC) quarterly newsletter informs members on the latest happenings in federal education policy and national news. Each quarter, we'll provide insight from an ADC sponsor on a topic of interest, highlight strong practices among members, and update you on ADC publications and events.
Federal Courts
Featured Update: Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President and Fellows of Harvard College, U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts. On June 16, 2018, Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. (SFFA) and Harvard each filed "summary judgment" motions, asking the federal trial court for Massachusetts to decide the case based on discovery, without a trial. View the Inside Higher Ed article and the full appeal (.pdf/28.02 KB). SFFA claims:
Harvard violates Title VI (the federal statute, largely adopting equal protection standards and prohibiting race/ethnicity discrimination in education by private and public recipients of federal funds);
It is more likely than not that Harvard intentionally discriminates against and adversely stereotypes Asian students in admission, offering SFFA's expert analyses of admission rates and trends and subjective scoring practices to support its assertion, and also citing to an older internal Harvard study as identifying bias;
Separately, Harvard fails to satisfy the "narrow tailoring" requirements for compelling educational objectives and evidence of need to consider race in admission, as required by the Supreme Court in Grutter and Fisher;
Harvard uses proscribed racial balancing in admission;
Harvard failed to consider race-neutral alternatives before considering race; and
Harvard's continued preferences for legacies and athletes demonstrate Harvard is not doing all it is required to do to assess and use "workable" race-neutral alternatives to consideration of race in admission.
Harvard refutes all SFFA's claims and asserts that:
SFFA's lawsuit should be dismissed for lack of "standing" because SFFA is representing those who sued and lost in the Fisher cases (against the University of Texas, Austin), and not any party with a real, non-speculative interest in admission to Harvard;
There are infirmities and gaps in the SFFA expert's data analyses (e.g., excluding key information and portions of the applicant pool) that would make it unreasonable for any fact finder to rely on those analyses to find against Harvard;
SFFA expert's data analyses do not support the claim of intentional discrimination against Asian students in admission, and there is no direct evidence of such discrimination;
Harvard's own expert data analyses show no statistically significant disparity in admission of Asian students; they show an increase in admission of Asian students over the last decade, while such students' proportion of the applicant pool was relatively flat;
The Supreme Court has specifically endorsed Harvard's admission policy in Bakke and Grutter;
A Harvard committee report, endorsed by the full Arts and Sciences faculty, re-affirmed the criticality of student diversity to Harvard's educational objectives;
Harvard uses race-neutral strategies (including extensive recruiting and one of the most generous financial aid policies); and a Harvard committee of academic, student life, and admission experts assessed—and determined the inadequacy of—neutral alternatives to considering race flexibly and contextually in whole applicant (holistic) admission review, which is necessary to maintain Harvard's standards of excellence and academic judgments.
Transgender Student Rights. Although the Trump administration rescinded Obama-era Title IX guidance on use of sex-segregated facilities by transgender students, and the U.S. Department of Education (USED) confirmed that the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) will no longer investigate transgender students' civil rights complaints about access to bathrooms conforming with their gender identity, a number of federal appellate courts and district courts have ruled in favor of transgender students' rights to use such facilities under Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Read the appeal (.pdf/261 KB) and a related article from The Washington Post.
U.S. Department of Education
USED OCR Investigation. On June 11, the OCR announced an investigation of former University of Southern California employee George Tyndall regarding the university's response to reports of sexual harassment during pelvic exams.

USED Sends Borrower Defense to Repayment Rule and Distance Education State Authorization Rules to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). View the related OMB notice, the OMB notice on distance education programs, the Federal Register notice (.pdf/205.82 KB), and the summary from Lexology.

USED to Terminate Contracts with Student Debt Collectors. View the POLITICO article.
U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ)
Free Speech on College Campuses. On June 11, the DOJ filed a statement of interest in the case Speech First Inc. v. Schlissel. On May 25, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions published an op-ed about the case in USA Today.
Trump Administration
Trump Administration Rescinds Guidance on Race-Conscious Admission. On July 3, the Trump administration rescinded several Obama-era guidance documents that focused on the consideration of race in college admission as a mechanism to increase campus diversity. In the letter announcing this decision, USED and the DOJ explained that these documents "advocate policy preferences and positions beyond the requirements of the Constitution, Title IV [of the Civil Rights Act of 1964], and Title VI [of the Civil Rights Act of 1964]." While the decision to rescind this guidance does not change legal obligations as defined by the U.S. Supreme Court (Bakke, Grutter, Gratz, and Fisher I and II), it is the most recent in a series of Trump administration actions that signal a heightened executive branch interest in race-conscious admission policies. View the DOJ press release and The New York Times article.

Report on International Student Trends. On May 1, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement released a report (.pdf/5.33 MB) that examines the number of students with active F (academic studies) and M (vocational studies) student visas and found that international student enrollment in the United States decreased by 0.5% from March 2017 to March 2018.

Government Accountability Office (GAO) Report on Oversight of Federal Student Loans. On April 26, the GAO released a report (.pdf/2.09 MB) that examines how colleges and universities work with borrowers to manage default rates and highlights that several default management consulting firms push borrowers into prolonged forbearance to help schools artificially lower their cohort default rates. Read Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Rep. Mark Takano's (D-Calif.) statement.

GAO Report on Graduate PLUS Borrowers. On April 17, the GAO released a report (.pdf/14.92 MB) that analyzes data from the National Student Loan Data System for award years 2007 through 2017 to determine what is known about Grad PLUS borrowers, loan repayment plans that these borrowers use, and how the addition of loan limits might affect the number and type of borrowers.
U.S. Congress
House Democrats Release Aim Higher Act in Response to PROSPER Act. On July 24, all 17 Democratic members of the House Education and the Workforce Committee released the Aim Higher Act, which is their version of a comprehensive reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. The Democratic bill is in response to the Republican-led reauthorization bill, the PROSPER Act, which was voted out of committee in December 2017. View the minority press release.

U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander at the New York Times Higher Ed Leaders Forum. On May 31, Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) addressed the New York Times Higher Ed Leaders Forum, where he discussed "free speech on campus, reauthorizing the Higher Education Act, and other political issues surrounding higher education." View the press release and full video.

House of Representatives Oversight Committee Hearing on Free Speech on College Campuses. On May 22, the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Healthcare, Benefits, and Administrative Rules and the Subcommittee on Intergovernmental Affairs held a joint hearing titled "Challenges to the Freedom of Speech on College Campuses: Part II."

House Ed and Workforce Committee Chairwoman Press on PROSPER Act. On May 22, House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) appeared on CBN News to discuss the PROSPER Act. View the press release and video. On May 17, the Washington Examiner published an op-ed by Chairwoman Foxx calling attention to the reforms in the PROSPER Act.

USED Secretary Betsy DeVos Testifies at House Committee on Education and the Workforce. On May 22, the House Education and the Workforce Committee held a hearing titled "Examining the Policies and Priorities of the U.S. Department of Education." USED Secretary DeVos testified at the hearing in her first appearance before the committee since taking office. View the press release and find more information.

USED Deputy Secretary and USED General Counsel Confirmed by Senate. On May 16, the U.S. Senate approved Mick Zais to serve as deputy secretary of education in a vote along party lines. Also, on April 17, the Senate confirmed Carlos G. Muñiz as USED's general counsel.

House Democrats Unveil 21st-Century Workforce Plan. On April 27, House Democratic leaders held a press conference at Northern Virginia Community College to unveil the newest plank of their economic agenda titled "A Better Deal: Tools to Succeed in the 21st Century." View the full plan.
Test Optional. On June 14, the University of Chicago announced it would no longer require the ACT® or SAT® as part of their admission process. Articles in The Wall Street Journal and The Chronicle of Higher Education explore the implications of this decision.

ACT and SAT. On May 25, The Atlantic published an article focused on how SAT and ACT scores often carry less weight in college admission than they used to.

Addressing Segregation in K–12 Education. On May 23, The Atlantic published an article that discusses Thomas Scott-Railton's proposal to address K–12 school segregation.

Anti-Trust Law. On April 27, The Atlantic published an article titled "The Best Ways to Fix College Admissions Are Probably Illegal." This piece proposes that cooperation among selective colleges could ease the college admission process, but such a system would likely violate anti-trust laws.

Diverse Applicant Pool. On April 18, The Atlantic published an article titled "When Disadvantaged Students Overlook Elite Colleges," which highlights the impact of undermatching for low-income students and students of color.

Recruitment. On April 16, The New York Times published an opinion article centered on the tendency of colleges to more often recruit from wealthier, whiter high schools, despite expressing strong commitments to diversity.

Reported DOJ Probe into Early Decision Admission Policies of Several Universities. In April, the media reported that the DOJ notified a number of colleges to retain documents relating to their early decision policies and practices, particularly any agreements to share information about participating students and actions taken on that information, in connection with the DOJ's inquiry into possible federal anti-trust violations. DOJ's rationale has not been made public. See The New York Times article.
Financial Aid
Last Dollar Program. On June 11, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia published a preliminary report (.pdf/9.30 MB) on the Bridging the Gap program at Rutgers University–Camden, in Camden, N.J., showing that targeted supplemental financial aid can increase enrollment and reduce financial stress for low- to middle-income college students. The program and report were also featured in a National Public Radio piece.

Award Letters. On June 8, The Wall Street Journal published an article titled "Financial Games Colleges Play," which references a new report from uAspire highlighting the confusing nature of financial aid award letters and their impact on students.
Campus Climate and Racial Equity
College Completion Rates—Disparities Between White Students and Students of Color. On June 16, The Atlantic published an article titled "The College-Graduation Problem All States Have," discussing two reports recently released by the Education Trust highlighting the disparities between the graduation rates of white, Latino, and black students.

Free Speech and Other Hot Topics on Campus. On June 5, The New York Times published Learning: A Special Section, featuring articles on a series of higher education topics, including campus free speech, conflicting perspectives related to LGBTQ rights and Christian values on Christian college campuses, and the true price of top colleges compared to the sticker price.

Student Loans. On May 15, The Chronicle of Higher Education published an article titled "New Evidence Adds to Troubling Picture for Black Borrowers of Student Loans," which examines new federal data and a new report from New America that affirm longstanding concerns about the disproportionate level of student debt among black students.

Campus Response to Racism. On April 17, The Chronicle of Higher Education published an article that summarizes a study from UCLA on how campus diversity affects student perceptions of the adequacy of administration responses to racist incidents and racism on campus.

Students' Sense of Belonging. On April 14, The Chronicle of Higher Education published an article that focuses on two research studies from the American Educational Research Association's annual meeting centered on students' sense of belonging on campus.

College Completion. On April 12, The Chronicle of Higher Education published an article titled "Want More College Students to Graduate? Fix the High Schools," which explores the relationship between low-income students of color who attend low-performing high schools and college non-completion.
Title IX
Title IX. On May 28, The Boston Globe published an opinion article titled "How Title IX Became an Ideological Battering Ram," which discusses the ways Title IX is being misused on campuses.

Reported USED OCR Investigation—Gender Discrimination at Yale University. On May 21, Inside Higher Ed reported that USED OCR is conducting a Title IX investigation of Yale University following a complaint, filed by a doctoral student unaffiliated with Yale, alleging that the intuition discriminates against men.

Title IX. On May 8, The Wall Street Journal published an editorial that raises concerns over a recent ruling by the North Carolina Court of Appeals in April 2018 that would require the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to "release the names of anyone ‘who, since January 1, 2007, has been found responsible of rape, sexual assault, or any related or lesser included sexual misconduct.'" UNC has appealed the ruling.
Data and Reports on Cost, Quality, and Perception of Higher Education
New National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) Report on Higher Education. On June 5, the NCES published a report (.pdf/1.62 MB) titled "Postsecondary Institutions and Cost of Attendance in 2017-18; Degrees and Other Awards Conferred, 2016-17; and 12-Month Enrollment, 2016-17: First Look (Preliminary Data)."

Condition of Education Report. On May 23, NCES published the 2018 Condition of Education, a congressionally mandated annual report, which summarizes important developments and trends in education using the latest available data.

Perceptions of Higher Education. On May 21, The Atlantic published an article that examines a recent New America study showing that Democrats and Republicans see the value of higher education, but have varying perceptions of different types of higher education (e.g., certificate programs, community college, four-year schools).
Research on Campus Diversity and Test Optional Admission Policies. In April 2018, the National Association for College Admission Counseling published a study titled Defining Access: How Test-Optional Works, in which researchers evaluated the impact of test optional policies on college admission. They found that institutions with test optional policies enroll and graduate a higher proportion of low-income students, first-generation college students, and students of color.

National Academies Report on Sexual Harassment in STEM. On June 12, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a consensus report, "Sexual Harassment of Women: Climate, Culture, and Consequences in Academic Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine" (2018), presenting critical concepts, research, and recommendations to prevent and effectively respond to sexual harassment—in all of its forms—against faculty and students in academic science, engineering, and medicine. View the Vox article.

If you'd like your institution/organization to be considered for future Spotlights, please send a brief description of your initiative or practice to Emily Webb.
Upcoming Events
On July 31, the ADC Advisory Council and Sponsors' meetings will take place at EducationCounsel in Washington, D.C. These annual meetings address current issues and needs in or affecting enrollment management and future work and direction of the ADC, as well as providing an opportunity to meaningfully engage with colleagues on priority policies and practices.

On August 1, the College Board, EducationCounsel, and the American Council on Education will host an invitation-only convening in Washington, D.C., to mark the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court's Bakke decision, allowing consideration of race in admission with evidence of need. This convening will offer participants the opportunity to engage with thought leaders and peers to discuss key diversity- and equity-related opportunities and challenges that persist on our postsecondary campuses, and to help inform the development of an action-setting agenda advancing interests in access, diversity, inclusion, and excellence. A post-proceedings publication will follow. ADC members should have received an invitation.

From October 22–24, the College Board will host its annual Forum in Dallas, Texas. Please visit the College Board Forum 2018 homepage for details.

On October 22, the College Board will host an ADC Sponsors' Breakfast as part of its annual Forum in Dallas, Texas. Please be on the lookout for communication from [email protected] with further details.
The College Board is a mission-driven not-for-profit organization that connects students to college success and opportunity. Founded in 1900, the College Board was created to expand access to higher education. Today, the membership association is made up of over 6,000 of the world's leading educational institutions and is dedicated to promoting excellence and equity in education. Each year, the College Board helps more than seven million students prepare for a successful transition to college through programs and services in college readiness and college success—including the SAT and the Advanced Placement Program®. The organization also serves the education community through research and advocacy on behalf of students, educators, and schools. For further information, visit

EducationCounsel LLC is a recognized leader on issues of education policy, strategy, and law as it works to close achievement gaps and improve education outcomes for all. EducationCounsel addresses an array of higher education issues, including those associated with student access; institutional quality; and student/faculty diversity, inclusion, and free expression. An affiliate of Nelson Mullins Riley and Scarborough LLP, EducationCounsel helps lead the work of the College Board's Access and Diversity Collaborative and is responsible for the development of this newsletter. For more information, visit
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