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ACE Event on Race, Class and College Access Report Underscores Need for Campus Diversity

July 27, 2015

Race, Class and College Access report cover


​"Myriad studies show everyone gets a better education in a diverse environment," said Richard L. McCormick, president emeritus of Rutgers University, setting the tone last week at a report release event at ACE. 

ACE’s Center for Policy Research and Strategy (CPRS) hosted the release event for its new report, Race, Class, and College Access: Achieving Diversity in a Shifting Legal Landscape, which is co-authored by Pearson’s Center for College & Career Success and the Civil Rights Project at UCLA. The gathering featured four different panels on topics related to college access and diversity with opening remarks by ACE President Molly Corbett Broad and Gary Orfield, co-director of the Civil Rights Project at UCLA. 

The ACE report fosters a much-needed dialogue on how institutions can best respond to a shifting policy and legal landscape at a time when access to postsecondary education has never been more vital and our citizenry never so diverse. The researchers examine contemporary admission practices at four-year colleges and universities across a wide range of selectivity in the context of recent legal challenges to race-conscious admissions, including the pending U.S. Supreme Court case Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin.

Lorelle Espinosa, co-author of the report and assistant vice president of CPRS, shared that some of the most widely discussed and most effective diversity strategies, including those covered by the media and taken up by researchers, are in fact some of the least utilized on the ground. She noted that “if researchers and policymakers or the press want to align more closely with the prevailing practice, which we believe they should, the attention of their coverage will need to shift.”

Matthew Gaertner, co-author of the report and senior research scientist at Pearson’s Center for College & Career Success, addressed what has changed in admissions factors and diversity strategies such as outreach and recruitment in the post-Fisher environment. The study found that colleges and universities were much more likely to increase their use of the latter. This trend points to a larger finding of the report that the admissions process and the work that admissions officers do to diversify their campuses extends far beyond the admissions decisions themselves.


Gaertner and Espinosa summarized their reflections on the convening and report in a blog post.

Speakers Jamie Lewis Keith, vice president, general counsel and university secretary at the University of Florida, and Arthur Coleman, attorney and managing partner at EducationCounsel, focused on policy and law, using the study as a jumping off point. The Chronicle of Higher Education story “7 Myths About Campus Diversity” summarized Coleman’s presentation.

Diverse: Issues in Higher Education wrote an excellent recap of the panel on developing strong leadership on diversity policies. The panel included McCormick, Bernie Machen, former president of the University of Florida, Jeremiah Quinlan, dean of undergraduate admissions at Yale University (CT), and Broad, and was moderated by Michael Reilly, president of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers.

The final session of the day focused on the connection between admissions and student success.

“We recognize our students, faculty and staff come to us with a variety of experiences that are assets—not something that should be checked at the door—but that are valuable resources that will help them be successful and we find ways to help them leverage those rich assets to support their overall success,” said Frank Tuitt, associate provost for inclusive excellence and associate professor at the University of Denver.

Julie J. Park, assistant professor at the University of Maryland, College Park, who was also on the panel, spoke about the importance of racial diversity on campus. “It is easy to forget that friendships across racial and ethnic lines cannot happen without baseline demographic conditions.”

Orfield, co-author of the report, urged the audience in closing remarks to share the benefits of diversity more broadly so that more people understand the value.

“This is not a choice where one group wins and one group loses, this is actually a positive sum game and it is the only positive sum game really for our society since we are going to become a society without a racial majority very soon and we have tremendous inequality that we need to overcome,” Orfield said.

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