Federal Government Issues New Guidelines on Efforts to Increase Racial Diversity on Campus

On December 2, the United States Department of Justice and the United States Department of Education issued a 10-page guidance memo to college and university administrators across the country. The purpose of the memo was to “explain how, consistent with existing law, postsecondary institutions can voluntarily consider race to further the compelling interest of achieving diversity.”

The reports states: “Learning environments comprised of students from diverse backgrounds provide an enhanced educational experience for individual students. Interacting with students who have different perspectives and life experiences can raise the level of academic and social discourse both inside and outside the classroom; indeed, such interaction is an education in itself. By choosing to create this kind of rich academic environment, educational institutions help students sharpen their critical thinking and analytical skills.”

Among the strategies for increasing racial diversity that the document says would be appropriate and legal are:

Example 1: An institution could consider an applicant’s socioeconomic status, first-generation college status, geographic residency, or other race-neutral criteria if doing so would assist in drawing students from different racial backgrounds to the institution.

Example 2: An institution could include in its admissions procedures special consideration for students who have endured or overcome hardships such as marked residential instability (e.g., the student moved from residence to residence or school to school while growing up) or enrollment in a low-performing school or district.

Example 3: An institution could implement a plan that guarantees admission to a top percentile of students graduating from all in-state high schools.

Example 4: An institution could select schools (including community colleges) based on their demographics (e.g., their racial or socioeconomic composition), and grant an admission preference to all students who have graduated from those schools, regardless of the race of the individual student.

The full text of the guidance document can be downloaded here.


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