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Redefining campus diversity – CSMonitor.com (participation)

April 22, 2012

Redefining campus diversity

Selective schools need to be vigilant in their effort to bring in more low-income kids.

Across America, the nation’s select colleges are expanding their concept of diversity. It’s not just about improving racial and ethnic balance on campus, but also increasing the percentage of low-income students – which is even lower than for minorities. Both are important goals.

Politics and the courts are pushing elite schools toward this broader approach.

In June, it will be five years since the Supreme Court gave the University of Michigan law school a pass on its practice of using race as one tool to consider in admissions. But this qualified OK on affirmative action is tenuous. Given the justices now on the bench, a new challenge could well be overturned. Such a case may grow out of a recent suit against the University of Texas at Austin.

At the same time, political momentum is building to ban race as a consideration in public education and hiring. This fall Colorado, Missouri, Arizona, and Nebraska will put such initiatives on ballots. If past voter approval in California, Washington, and Michigan is any guide, the four measures will pass, and handily.

Opening the university gates to make it possible for more low-income students to attend still means shutting out otherwise qualified students. But voters perceive discrimination based on income as more acceptable than racial preferences. And there are no legal hurdles.

Attuned, selective colleges and universities are making a greater effort to improve income mix and still keep an eye on racial diversity.

In recent months, Harvard, Stanford, and other elite schools have announced free tuition for students whose families earn less than $60,000 (more in some cases).

Several private foundations have begun programs to match smart but poor kids with elite schools.

Last fall, 19 of the country’s largest public university systems pledged to halve the achievement gap for minority and low-income students by improving their college attendance and graduation rates.

And the nation now has a proven model in Texas, which has found a legal way to increase income, geographic, and racial variety – and academic performance. The University of Texas guarantees admission to the top 10 percent of state high schools. It sweeps rural and urban schools, poor and wealthy, minorities and whites. (The above-mentioned lawsuit challenges the part of admissions that still uses racial preferences).

These efforts are encouraging, but the challenge is daunting.

A 2003 study by the Century Foundation found that African-Americans and Hispanics each constitute only 6 percent of incoming freshmen at the nation’s 146 most select schools (as defined by the Barron’s guide). Yet the percent of blacks and Hispanics among 18-year-olds is more than twice that. Income disparity was even worse: only 3 percent of all the freshmen were from the poorest quarter of the population.

It’s also expensive to pay for poor kids and then follow through with the extra skills help they may need, especially when state budgets are being squeezed and a recession may be settling in.

The trend over time is that more students of color will graduate from US high schools, and many will be low-income. Higher education must be vigilant in moving them onto and up the learning ladder.

via Redefining campus diversity – CSMonitor.com.

via Redefining campus diversity – CSMonitor.com (participation).

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8 Comments
  1. Reed Clarridge permalink

    Interesting. I wonder if this will hinder or encourage racial diversity. However, it’s important to look at the resource distribution ante-college, then post-college. Higher education really does a bit of balancing in terms of wealth. Perhaps a mix of diversity programs involving both the poor and the minorities will be a reality in the future.

  2. Brittany dyess permalink

    I never thought about this up until now,bt ” diversity” can apply to many different aspects when regarding admissions .One way is being diverse in regards to finances,your family’s financial status(low income vs very wealthy) .second way,diverse regarding your background,and last your talents and intelligence.their best bet would definitly try to focus on the overall diversity on campus.
    One thing that will keep the universitys “behind on growth” will be only accept people into the institutions usinglow income as a factor in means to prevent racial lawsuits.in the article,it says,”to try and focus on Opening the university gates to make it possible for more low-income students to attend still means shutting out otherwise qualified students. But voters perceive discrimination based on income as more acceptable than racial preferences. And there are no legal hurdles..”

  3. Victoria Kolytiris permalink

    Likewise I honestly had never thought about this aspect before until now. I did not realize that it does take a lot of money and time to invest in kids that come into college with inadequate skills to study therefore causing the schools more money. There should probably be an array of more programs but that would cause the school even more time and money.

  4. Hailey Schur permalink

    Wow, that’s really interesting how universities are doing this. College isn’t suppose to be for the upper class or who has more money. That is why there are loans out there. I agree with this post about everyone having equal opportunity to better their education. Most people don’t understand how even middle class families start college savings accounts when the kids are just born and still don’t have enough saved to pay off for a four-year school. Many of them still are paying the schools back for years after their children graduate.

  5. I think admitting more students of a lower economic standing is a good idea. Right now in the United States we are seeing the gap between the lower and upper class widening. Efforts such as this will help close this separation and allow people to not be hindered by their wealth. However, I wonder if this approach will have negative effects on our country’s economy? Since more students of lower income families will be given acceptance, this can only mean more money will be pulled from financial aid. While this doesn’t affect the university itself, it could possible weigh a burden on our states budget.

  6. With our current economic situation it seems more and more that the topic of diversity in schools is less important when we compare it too funding for schools (universities). Here in WA, UW has denied in state students with perfect GPAs for out of state ones purely because of the higher tuition paid by out of state student. This to me says alot more about how important diversity is to state universities than anything else.

  7. Carolina Salazar permalink

    It’s is interesting that universities are doing this. I actually agree with this post because the universities are letting in more students that are not as wealthy as others. Although, this might lead to denying students who are well qualified, I still think it’s good that those with less money have a good chance of getting an education.

  8. beth buechner permalink

    Within many areas of life, people always discuss diversity and the need to diversify. This usually includes more students of color, more students from out of country or out of state, and so on. Many forget about the issue of classism and the need to not only integrate more people of color and so on, but also to integrate more students from lower economic status. There is a need for more scholarships and grants for those students in the working and lower classes so they may also have the same opportunities as those in more well off families. I feel race, class, etc. are all prevalent issues and will always be important; however, I do not believe that race should be a deciding factor on whether or not you receive admittance into a university. I think applications should be all blind applications and solely based on your GPA, ACT and SAT scores, letters of recommendations, and involvement within their school and community. I know this is very difficult and expensive, but I am an idealistic person who believes all people deserve a fair chance. I think it would be wonderful for the myth of meritocracy to be real and for that to begin in college campuses would be wonderful. I would like to live in a place where the harder you work the higher up you can reach. Unlike our society now where it is about whom you know and how much money you have to get you there.

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