The Access and Diversity Collaborative's Quarterly Update:
News and Developments of Note


June 2020

The College Board’s Access and Diversity Collaborative (ADC) quarterly newsletter informs sponsors regarding the happenings in federal education policy and national news principally on issues of higher education access, enrollment, diversity, and inclusion. We also highlight relevant sponsor news and updates on ADC publications and events, with periodic ADC sponsor features.

Racial Justice and the ADC
The horrific murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor in recent weeks, and the murders of too many other Black people that preceded them, have re-cast a light and catalyzed action against the systemic racism and inequities entrenched in all aspects American society, including education.

Addressing the inequities that often stem from systemic racism has been a major foundation for the ADC’s work, and will continue to be a driver of what we do, together.  The College Board’s Diaspora Affinity Group along with many of our affiliated organizations have issued important statements regarding this very consequential time in our nation’s history.  They are listed here for reference, inspiration, and incentive to action.
Organizational Statements

Federal Court and Agency Enforcement Watch
Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President and Fellows of Harvard College, First Circuit Court of Appeals.
Background: On September 30, 2019, the U.S. District Court for Massachusetts rendered a decision in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard. In the decision, the district court addressed and rejected four claims of discrimination by the plaintiff that Harvard unlawfully pursued racial balancing; considered the race of applicants in a mechanical way; failed to pursue viable race-neutral alternatives in lieu of its consideration of race; and engaged in intentional discrimination against Asian Americans.
Appellate Briefs:  On February 18, 2020, Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) filed its principal appellate brief seeking reversal of the federal district court’s  September 30, 2019 ruling in favor of Harvard University.  (The ADC’s April 2020 Newsletter provided a summary of that brief.) On May 15, Harvard filed its brief in response, rejecting SFFA’s position on the merits, and again asserting SFFA’s lack of standing; SFFA filed its reply to Harvard’s brief on June 4, 2020.  Oral argument has not yet been scheduled.
Amicus briefs filed in support of SFFA and in support of Harvard.
Amici who filed briefs supporting SFFA include those submitted on behalf of: National Association of Scholars; Judicial Watch, Inc.; The Asian American Coalition for Education and the Asian American Legal Foundation; Pacific Legal Foundation, Reason Foundation, Center for Equal Opportunity, Individual Rights Foundation, and Chinese American Citizens Alliance—Greater New York; United States of America; Michael Keane, Hanming Fang, Christopher Flinn, Stefan Hoderlein, Yingyao Hu, Joseph Kaboski, Glenn Loury, Thomas Mroz, John Rust, and Matthew Shum; and Mountain States Legal Foundation. 
Amici who filed briefs supporting Harvard include those submitted on behalf of: American Council on Education and 40 Other Higher Education Organizations (College Board joined the ACE brief in support of Harvard);  Students, Alumni, and Prospective Students of Harvard College; Massachusetts, California, Colorado, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Virginia; Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund; Walter Dellinger; Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Duke University, Emory University, Johns Hopkins University, MIT, Princeton University, Stanford University, University of Chicago, et al.; Sarah E. Harrington; Anti-Defamation League; The National Association of Basketball Coaches, Women’s Basketball Coaches Association, and 339 Current or Former College Head Coaches; Professors of Economics; and Amgen, Apple, Applied Materials; Cisco Systems; Cummins; General Electric Company; Gilead Sciences; GlaxoSmithKline LLC; Intel Corporation; Micron Technology; Microsoft Corporation; Twitter; Verizon Services Corp.; ViiV Healthcare Company.
Relevant Resources: In October 2019, the ADC hosted a webinar on the federal trial court decision, a recording of which is available here. In January 2020, the College Board and EducationCounsel published an analysis of the decision that includes:
  1. A distillation and analysis the district court’s 40-page evaluation of statistical models presented by the parties; and
  2. Major takeaways from the decision, along with implications for institutional  action.
Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, U.S. District Court for the North Carolina Middle District.  On September 30, 2019, the federal district court issued a pre-trial order denying summary judgment to both Students for Fair Admissions and the University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill. (The ADC’s December 2019 newsletter contains a summary of the court’s ruling.) In May 2020, UNC filed an unopposed motion for partial summary judgment with respect to Count III of SFFA’s complaint, which asserts  that U.S. Supreme Court precedent affirming the compelling interest in student diversity that justifies the limited consideration of race in admission should be overruled.  The court granted this unopposed motion for partial summary judgment for UNC on May 28, 2020.  As lower courts cannot ignore or overrule Supreme Court precedent, SFFA did not oppose the motion.  It did, however, reserve the right to make that argument before the U.S. Supreme Court if the Court ever hears the case.  
The trial of the case, delayed for reasons associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, is now scheduled to begin on November 9, 2020, where SFFA’s central allegations are that UNC [1] failed to use race as merely a “plus” factor in admissions decisions, and [2] failed adequately pursue race-neutral alternatives before considering race.

Enrollment Policies and Practices

ADC Resources on Race Neutral Alternatives  
Relevant Articles
  • On June 15, the University of California Board of Regents released a statement in support of the Assembly Constitutional Amendment (ACA) 5 as well as the repeal of Proposition 209. In 1996, California voters voted in favor of Prop. 209, “which banned the consideration of race and gender in admissions decisions.”  ACA 5 is in the process of working its way through the California state legislature, having passed the state Assembly and currently pending in the state Senate. According to the statement from the UC Board of Regents, ACA 5 needs to be passed by the state Senate by at least a two-thirds majority before June 25 to be added to the California state ballot this November, which would provide California voters the opportunity to repeal the state’s prohibition on the consideration of race and gender in admissions decisions. 
  • On June 3, The New York Times published an article titled, “How to Normalize the College Search Process for Juniors,” which discusses the impact of COVID-19 on the college search process for the Class of 2021 and provides advice for students as they apply to college next fall.
  • On May 18, The Chronicle of Higher Education published an article titled, “Inside the Scramble for Students,” which discusses the ways college admissions officers have had to rapidly adapt to a new form of student recruitment efforts in light of COVID-19, including by adding increased flexibility, offering tuition discounts such as in state tuition cost even for out of state students, and offering payment deferments.

Financial Aid and Cost of College
  • On May 15, the National College Attainment Network (NCAN) published a report titled, "The Growing Gap: Public Higher Education's Declining Affordability for Pell Grant Recipients,” which analyzes the “affordability gap” for students (the costs a student must still pay for post-secondary education after applying their Pell Grant). According to the report, among both two- and four-year public institutions, the affordability gap for students grew between 2013-14 and 2017-18. In 2017-18, the average affordability gap for two-year public institutions was $640 (compared to $132 in 2013-14) while the affordability gap for four-year public institutions was $2,406 (compared to $1,212 in 2013-14).
  • On May 6, the National College Attainment Network (NCAN) published a report titled, "Nearly 250,000 Fewer Low-Income FAFSA Renewals This Cycle Nationally," which analyzes Federal Student Aid data from October 2019 to mid-April 2020. Among other key findings, the report noted that compared to last year, the total number of FAFSA renewals decreased by 5 percent. Further disaggregating this data, the report notes that FAFSA renewals for applicants with income of less than $25,000 decreased by 8 percent and that FAFSA renewals for applicants with income between $25,000 and $50,000 decreased by 4 percent.
Student Experience and Outcomes
  • On May 15, Generation Hope published a report titled, "Uncovering the Student-Parent Experience and Its Impact on College Success," which discusses findings from a national survey of postsecondary students, who are also parents. Among other key findings, the report highlights that one in five college students is also a parent; that more than one in three student-parents “did not see any family friendly characteristics on their campuses;” that more than 60 percent of student-parents “missed at least one day of class due to lack of child care;” and that 75 percent “were unaware their financial aid could be increased to account for childcare costs.”
Relevant Articles
  • On June 3, the New York Times published an article titled “What Will College Be Like in the Fall?,” which includes interview responses from six higher education leaders on topics including campus life, students working on campus, and learning environments.

Title IX
  • On May 21, the Government Accountability Office published a report titled, "Approaches and Strategies Used in College Campus Surveys on Sexual Violence," which summarizes findings from a review of campus climate surveys. Among other key findings, the report highlights that colleges can use campus climate surveys to gather more comprehensive information on all the incidents of campus sexual violence rather than just those that are reported and to better inform institutions on how well students know how to report incidents if/when they occur.
  • On May 6, the U.S. Department of Education published the final rule for Title IX related to sexual harassment and assault, which applies to both institutions of higher education and K-12 schools, where the Department promulgated major changes in regulations that include:  the definition of what constitutes sexual harassment under Title IX; changes in the geographical reach of Title IX’s prohibitions; changes to the kind of institutional notice that will trigger an obligation to respond; and changes regarding conditions and criteria associated with complaints of sexual harassment and grievance processes.  The Department also published a fact sheet on the rule.   On June 4, seventeen states and the District of Columbia sued U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and the U.S. Department of Education seeking to prohibit implementation of the final regulations because of their fundamental inconsistency with Title IX. Several other organizations have also filed lawsuits against U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.  Unless a court intervenes, the scheduled effective date of the new regulations is August 14, 2020.

COVID-19 and Higher Education
  • On June 4, the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing on “COVID-19: Going Back to College Safely,” which included testimony from Mr Mitch Daniels, President of Purdue University; Dr. Christina Paxon, President of Brown University; Dr. Logan Hampton, President of Lane College; and Dr. Georges Benjamin, Executive Director of the American Public Health Association. Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) focused on the need for increased testing and advised institutions coordinate with their states as they develop their plans for Fall 2020. Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) urged institutions to attend to the needs of students and faculty who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, including people of color and students experiencing homelessness.
  • In both April and May 2020, the American Council on Education conducted surveys of higher education leaders, as part of a year of monthly “Pulse Point surveys” related to COVID-19. In both the April 2020 and May 2020 surveys, college presidents reported that the most pressing COVID-19 issue facing them is “enrollment numbers for summer and/or fall.” Additionally, in May 2020, the second most pressing issue was one newly added to the poll for May 2020: “deciding on fall term plans.”
Relevant Articles
  • On June 2, U.S. News and World Report published an article titled “Student Behavior Is the Key to Reopening Colleges,” which discusses the way some colleges are preparing for a return to campus in the fall, including particular attention to student behavior outside of the classroom.
  • On May 21, The Chronicle of Higher Education published an article titled “Why One Former Campus Leader Thinks College Rankings Should Stop During the Pandemic,” which discusses two proposals H. Holden Thorp sets forth to help mitigate college access inequities during the pandemic: suspending U.S. News and World Report rankings and the use of standardized tests during the admissions process. These proposals are also discussed explained in Dr. Thorp’s Science editorial.

ADC in Action
Sponsor Spotlight
  • On June 22, the American Council on Education released "Leading After a Racial Crisis: Weaving a Campus Tapestry of Diversity and Inclusion." In its second report on the work conducted at the University of Missouri-Columbia to support recovery from the 2015 racial crisis, ACE "explores how the institution has been successful in increasing its capacity for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) over the last five years, and how the campus community has responded." This report provides lessons and frameworks for campus leaders "as students, faculty, administrators, and staff reckon with issues of racial justice and institutional histories with race and racism." The first report in this series was published in 2018 and is available here.

Sponsor COVID-19 Resources
  • The College Board has developed a Higher Education Coronavirus Updates website, which provides information on programs and assessments used by institutions of higher education and is updated regularly
  • The American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) developed sets of guidance by topic areas including Admissions, FERPA, Financial Aid, Grades, and Transcripts for institutions to consider as they consider policy changes during COVID-19.
  • The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) is compiling resources on COVID-19 and financial aid, which is being continuously updated as new information arises. 
  • Through its Engage platform, the American Council on Education (ACE) is compiling resources, supporting discussions among institution leaders, and hosting webinars on topics related to COVID-19 and higher education. ACE has also published “Recovery 2020: Key Questions and Principles for Campus Leaders,” a set of guidelines to support campus leaders as they consider plans to reopen campus.
  • The National Association of College Admission Counseling (NACAC) is compiling resources on COVID-19 and college admissions, which is being continuously updated as new information arises. 
  • The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) is compiling COVID-19 resources including information on APLU COVID-19 related advocacy efforts, Campus Reopening Plans, U.S. Government Executive and Legislative Actions, and Teaching and Learning Resources.
If you would like your institution/organization to be considered for future Sponsor Spotlights, please send a brief description of your initiative or practice to Emily Webb (

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.  Education Counsel 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, please contact Art Coleman, Jamie Lewis Keith, or Emily Webb.

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