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Biden administration releases new recommendations for colleges to promote diversity

Originally Published: 28 SEP 23 19:41 ET

By Kaanita Iyer, CNN

(CNN) — The Department of Education on Thursday released a new report, recommending that colleges and universities adopt several strategies to increase diversity on campuses in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling that gutted affirmative action.

“A college degree remains one of America’s surest pathways to a rewarding career, upward mobility, and long-term prosperity,” Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in the report. “Yet, students of color and other historically underserved students have long faced inequities in educational opportunity, college preparation, and access to higher education.”

He added: “Our nation cannot thrive as a multiracial democracy or compete globally if growing numbers of diverse students lack access to our country’s most life-changing higher education opportunities.”

While higher education institutions can no longer take race into consideration in the admissions process following the high court’s June ruling, the new report suggests that colleges and universities should still consider how race has impacted an applicant’s life in addition to investing in out reach programs focused on recruiting diverse and lower-income students and making attendance affordable through need-based financial assistance.

The department has ramped up its efforts to push policies that promote diversity after the Supreme Court gutted affirmative action, which has benefited Black and Latino students in higher education, with President Joe Biden calling on institutions to not abandon the pursuit of diversity.

“America is an idea, an idea, unique in the world, an idea of hope and opportunity, of possibilities, of giving everyone a fair shot, of leaving no one behind. We’ve never fully lived up to it, but we have never walked away from it, either,” Biden said in sharp remarks shortly after the affirmative action ruling. “We will not walk away from it now.”

The administration unveiled executive actions to promote diversity and guidance for colleges moments after the president’s remarks and efforts in recent months have included an admissions diversity summit with college presidents, researchers, and K-12 educators to discuss the fallout of the ruling and how to move forward.

In the new report, the department argued that ending affirmative action will have devastating impacts on the enrollment of students of color, pointing to nine states that had banned the practice ahead of the ruling.

CNN previously reported that after California and Michigan moved to adopt race-neutral admissions policies in 1996 and 2006, respectively, Black student enrollment dropped at flagship schools such as the University of Michigan and the University of California, Berkeley and UCLA.

To mitigate the impact, the department urged colleges and universities to consider a student’s financial background, the neighborhood they grew up in and the impact of discrimination in their life when considering admittance.

The department is also recommending that colleges and universities focus on the climate on campus, arguing that it will help students complete their degrees. The department highlighted diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, also known as DEI programs, which have come under fire by conservatives.

Several states have enacted legislation that targets such programs.

In Texas, GOP Gov. Greg Abbott approved a bill in June that bans DEI offices at public colleges and universities. Meanwhile Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is running for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, signed legislation to defund such programs at all state colleges, calling them a “distraction from the core mission.”

“This is better viewed as standing for discrimination, exclusion and indoctrination, and that has no place in our public institutions,” DeSantis said at the time of the signing, adding that what the law does is “reorient our universities back to their traditional mission and part of that traditional mission is to treat people as individuals, not to try to divvy them up based on any type of superficial characteristics.”

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