Affirmative Action and Diversity

Strengthening Campus Diversity: How do we address this important issue?

We are pleased to bring to you new research that can help colleges and universities in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision in Fisher v. University of Texas.

We are a nation that celebrates diversity in all walks of life, and helping colleges and universities reflect that diversity on campus is an important task — one that merits discussion, debate and action. At ETS, we are committed to advancing quality and equity in education for all people.

The Fisher decision recognized that college and university judgments regarding the compelling educational need for diversity deserves respect. However, the Court has ruled that the means by which a college or university may go about attaining such diversity be questioned and subject to strict scrutiny by the courts.

In collaboration with Gary Orfield of the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles, ETS commissioned four papers that examine alternative criteria that could be used by selective colleges and universities to inform higher education admissions.

All of these papers discuss how college campuses can attempt to maintain and expand diversity within this framework. We invite you to read these papers, to tell your colleagues about them, and to join this important discussion on ensuring diversity while keeping equity and equal opportunity in education intact. The four papers are:

  • Professor Sean Reardon of the Stanford Graduate School of Education and his colleagues* have done pioneering work on the relative importance of race and poverty in educational inequality. This paper simulates a system of socioeconomic status (SES)-based affirmative action in college admissions, and examines the extent to which it can produce racial diversity in selective colleges. Using simulation models, it investigates the potential relative effects of race- and/or SES-based affirmative action policies on the racial and socioeconomic distribution of students in colleges. Read Professor Reardon et al issue brief >
  • Professors Catherine Horn, University of Houston and The Institute for Educational Policy Research and Evaluation, and Stella Flores, New York University and The Steinhardt Institute for Higher Education Policy, have done extensive research to provide a new synthesis of research on percent plans. This paper discusses college admissions strategies appropriate within the nation's developing law by examining percent plans, an alternative race-neutral path to college admissions in Texas, California and Florida. Read Professors Horn and Flores' issue brief >
  • Professors William Kidder and Patricia Gándara of the University of California have assessed the ability of the outreach and support programs initiated by the university in response to the 1996 affirmative action ban. Read Professors Kidder and Gándara's issue brief >
  • Professor Mark Long of the University of Washington examines a variety of data universities could collect from students, explores the degree to which it could be used to foster diversity, and discusses the relative practicality of such methods compared to affirmative action. Read Professor Long's issue brief >

* Rachel Baker, University of California, Irvine School of Education; Matt Kasman, Brookings Institution; Daniel Klasik, George Washington University; and Joseph B. Townsend, Stanford Graduate School of Education.

Please make sure to check back with us in 2016 — we'll have more research and other materials to help further the discussion on this important issue.

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