Reconsidering Affirmative Action Leaves Universities Few Options To Increase Diversity

Reconsidering Affirmative Action Leaves Universities Few Options To Increase Diversity

As the Supreme Court weighs in on race-based consideration for college enrollment, aka affirmative action, many institutions are finding themselves out of options to achieve the diversity their campuses need.

According to the Associated Press, states that now require race-neutral policies have seen a significant drop in enrollment among Black and Hispanic students, especially at historically white institutions. The Supreme Court is set to make a ruling on nationwide affirmative action, with a reversal marking a huge step back in university campus diversity. For example, Amherst College officials predict that an end to affirmative action would potentially reduce its Black, Hispanic, and Indigenous populations by half.

Colleges have already begun preparing for the staggering effects a decision of this magnitude could have on their enrollment by implementing changes elsewhere.

Some have chosen to include more written essays in their application process to further understand potential students’ backgrounds. While others have focused their attention on recruiting in underserved areas and admitting transfers from community colleges. Still, the issues affecting those with fewer resources could be further exacerbated by the Supreme Court’s ruling, and many insiders warn that even focusing on low-income students can end up canceling racial diversity. “Socioeconomic status is not a proxy for race,” Erica Sanders, the director of undergraduate admissions at the University of Michigan, said.

Sanders knows how a pivot to a race-neutral process can be fair. In 2006, Michigan rejected affirmative action, and the university has yet to recover from the hit Black and Hispanic enrollment took. Particularly, Black enrollments have continued to decrease, going from 8% of undergraduates in 2006 to 4%, according to the Associated Press.

And it won’t just be Black and Brown students who will take a major hit as the ruling can also force colleges to rethink legacy preferences and early admissions often given to white students, opting instead to return to an outdated focus on standardized testing.