Shaping a Responsible National Dialogue on Diversity

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Sharing a commitment to promoting diversity in higher education, the American Council on Education and the College Board co-sponsored a roundtable for college presidents, chief diversity officers and general counsel from nearly two dozen campuses. Gathering in Washington on Sept. 16, participants spent the day discussing topics about the current higher education policy landscape, lessons learned from the University of Michigan Supreme Court cases, the challenge of effective campus leadership regarding diversity as a compelling interest and shaping a responsible national dialogue on diversity — now and in the future.

“Our commitment to assuring the equal access and success of all students, regardless of race or gender, is unwavering,” ACE President Molly Corbett Broad told attendees, “and discussions like the one we are having today will inform our future efforts in this area.” Broad is also a member of the College Board’s Commission on Access, Admissions & Success in Higher Education.

The overwhelming evidence suggests, and most agree, that increasing diversity isn’t merely the right thing to do, but it’s also beneficial to everyone. Creating more diverse student bodies is good for the institution, particularly in light of changing demographics and the entire political and economic landscape in the country, and these graduates will help to make the United States more competitive in today’s global marketplace. But many questions remain about how we get there.

Less than a year after the College Board issued a call to action to its member colleges and universities to help low-income students earn college degrees, it is collaborating with ACE, a network of college presidents and associations, to help top administrators review the policies and practices of their institutions and identify ways that they can promote access and diversity at every level on their campuses. Both organizations want to advance the agenda of diversity in the country.

“The roundtable discussions explored issues of race and ethnicity, hands-on exposure to the law and what it says, and how to comply with the law while securing support for those efforts directly from the president’s office,” said Brad Quin, executive director of higher education advocacy and special initiatives at the College Board. “We want to encourage these presidents to look at the messages their schools communicate about inclusion through their literature and on their Web sites, but then we want them to look beneath the surface to ensure that their hiring and admissions practices and scholarship offerings reflect the institutional mission of supporting access and the educational benefits to all students of diversity in higher education.”

“ACE and the College Board were proud to host this event because both organizations are committed to helping institutions identify strategies and policies that legally promote access and foster diversity,” added Diana Cordova, director of ACE’s Center for Advancement of Racial and Ethnic Equity.

ACE and the College Board will continue to collaborate on this important topic, and they plan to publish an essay that demonstrates the correlation between student diversity and positive educational, economic and social outcomes and suggests ways in which college administrators can promote access and diversity.

Read the policy brief that came out of this discussion: A 21st-Century Imperative: Promoting Access and Diversity in Higher Education

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