ED Unveils New Resources on Usage of Race-Conscious Admissions Policies

By Hugh T. Ferguson, NASFAA Senior Staff Reporter

The Department of Education (ED) on Monday unveiled new resources to help postsecondary institutions pursue efforts to achieve student diversity, while lawfully complying with the United States Supreme Court’s decision that struck down race-conscious admissions policies.

The updated guidance comes from both ED and the Department of Justice (DOJ), who issued a Dear Colleague Letter and a Questions and Answers resource aimed at providing colleges and universities with “legally viable” practices to promote diversity of students with varied “viewpoints, talents, backgrounds, and experiences.”

Last month, Under Secretary James Kvaal previewed this guidance, which he said would be formalized within 45 days of the SCOTUS decision.

Both documents detail the court’s key findings, outline the scope of the ruling, and provide parameters for schools to consider when evaluating their admissions policies.

“With respect to admissions practices themselves, especially for the upcoming cycle, the departments encourage colleges and universities to review their policies to ensure they identify and reward those attributes that they most value, such as hard work, achievement, intellectual curiosity, potential, and determination,” ED and DOJ write.

The Q&A resource provides schools with examples of how they can consider the ways that a student’s background, “including experiences linked to their race,” have shaped their lives and the unique contributions they can make to campus.

“Students should feel comfortable presenting their whole selves when applying to college, without fear of stereotyping, bias, or discrimination,” ED and DOJ write.

The guidance also encourages schools to promote other diversity initiatives, which could include partnerships with school districts in underserved communities to help to bolster the higher education pipeline so that more students will be prepared to apply for and complete a postsecondary program.

“The Departments of Justice and Education will continue to address all complaints of race discrimination by applying the relevant legal standards under civil rights statutes and will vigorously enforce civil rights protections, including prohibitions against racial discrimination,” the departments wrote.

ED also plans to unveil a new report in September that will detail how campuses can build inclusive and diverse student bodies that will build upon topics discussed during ED’s National Summit on Equal Opportunity in Higher Education.

According to ED, that report will include ways that admissions practices can account for “the financial means of a student or their family; where a student grew up and went to high school; and personal experiences of hardship or discrimination, including racial discrimination.”


Publication Date: 8/15/2023

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