Renewing and Expanding Diversity Programs

In the wake of the Supreme Court's decision on affirmative action, colleges and universities might do well to consider how they can do more to make diversity a reality on their campuses.

Lawyers are reviewing the Court's decision and what it means for institutional policies, but there are several steps colleges can take today. These include expanding those involved in setting and implementing diversity policies, taking a look at specific campus needs and processes, and redoubling outreach efforts used by institutions, secondary schools, and society. Most of all, it means increasing the pool of qualified applicants.

NRCCUA offers these points to help post-secondary institutions consider how best to expand and improve diversity policies and programs.

How are you defining diversity?

Take a new look at what types of diversity you are considering, including socio-economic status, geography, gender, religion, parental educational attainment, and interests. As Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor quoted last summer from the Bakke decision, there is "a far broader array of qualifications and characteristics of which racial or ethnic origin is but a single though important element."

Are you looking at specific programs?

Look beyond overall enrollment numbers and within specific academic and other programs. Do some departments need special attention and recruitment assistance? When applicants look at individual departments, what kind of picture are they seeing?

Have you made diversity a campus-wide priority?

While the admissions office plays the leading role in getting students enrolled, academic and administrative departments as well as students and alumni - can help make affirmative action programs succeed. Consider how you can expand those departments involved in helping you achieve your diversity goals.

Are you using available tools to increase the pool of applicants?

A variety of tools can be used to reach potential students. Are you aggressively using some, such as direct mail lists, that let you identify and pay special attention to particular types of students? The single most important strategy for achieving diversity may be to expand the number of students who you are actively seeking and informing about your institution.

Do you have sufficient admissions staff and resources to review applications?

Have you allocated the resources you need to not only expand outreach to special populations, but also give the individual attention to applications required by the Supreme Court decision?

What are the roles of scholarships and financial aid?

The Supreme Court was silent on the questions regarding the use of scholarships and financial aid to achieve diversity goals. Nonetheless, the ability to finance a college education looms especially large in the minds of disadvantaged students and their families. Are potential applicants from underrepresented groups aware of the financial assistance available to them from your institution and other sources?

Are you working with outside groups to increase opportunities?

Others have a role in increasing the pool of applicants. Many middle and high schools are cutting back on the number of guidance counselors available to help students. So, what can you do to make sure more young people -- especially first-generation students -- get the help and information they need? Consider other groups in your community that are close to the underrepresented students and can help you to identify them, such as churches and community groups, businesses and civic organizations.

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