Advancing Diversity and Inclusion in Higher Education: Report

The U.S. Department of Education has released a report, Advancing Diversity and Inclusion in Higher Education, building on the Administration’s efforts to expand college opportunity for all. It presents key data that show the continuing educational inequities and opportunity gaps for students of color and low-income students and highlights promising practices that many colleges are taking to advance success for students of all backgrounds.

More than ever before, today’s students need to be prepared to succeed in a diverse, global workforce. Diversity benefits communities, schools, and students from all backgrounds, and research has shown that more diverse organizations make better decisions with better results. CEOs, university presidents, the military, and other leaders have accordingly expressed a strong interest in increasing diversity to ensure our nation enjoys a culturally competent workforce that capitalizes on the diverse backgrounds, talents, and perspectives that have helped America succeed.

“I applaud the commitments to creating diverse campus communities that so many colleges and universities have long sought to implement by attracting, admitting, and educating diverse students. But we must acknowledge that we have more work left to ensure that our campuses are safe, inclusive, and supportive environments that encourage student success and college completion for students from all backgrounds,” Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. said.

In conjunction with this report, Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. released a Dear Colleague letter calling on institutions to do all they can to eliminate harassment and discrimination to ensure a positive environment for all students.

Key findings of the report include:

  • Higher education is a key pathway for social mobility in the United States.
  • However, over the past 50 years, racial and ethnic disparities in higher education enrollment and attainment, as well as gaps in earnings, employment, and other related outcomes, has increasingly contributed to gaps in opportunities for students of colors.
  • Underrepresented students of color are disproportionately affected by decreases in participation at multiple points across the higher education pipeline including at application, admission, enrollment, persistence, and completion.

The report also includes the following focus areas that can help campuses advance diversity and inclusion and provide support to students of color, low-income students, and other underrepresented populations to drive success for all students:

  • Institutional Commitment to Promoting Student Body Diversity and Inclusion on Campus. Research shows that colleges and universities seeking to promote campus diversity identify how diversity relates to their core institutional mission and unique circumstances of the educational institution.
  • Diversity Across All Levels of an Institution. Research shows that campus leadership, including ensuring a diverse faculty and administration, can play an important role in achieving a diverse and inclusive campus climate.
  • Outreach and Recruitment of Prospective Students. Institutions committed to a diverse student body can take steps to improve outreach and recruitment of a diverse array of students. However, over the past 50 years, racial and ethnic disparities in higher education enrolment and attainment, as well as gaps in earnings, employment, and other related outcomes has increasingly contributed to gaps in opportunities for students of color.
  • Support Structures for Students. Institutions can implement effective student support services associated with improved academic outcomes throughout the student’s college experience. For example, well-designed course placement strategies mitigate the time students spend in remedial education without making progress toward a credential. Individualized mentoring and coaching can increase the odds that students remain enrolled in school. First-year experience programs such as bridge programs can improve academic achievement and credit-earning.
  • Inclusive Campus Climate. Students report less discrimination and bias at institutions where they perceive a stronger institutional commitment to diversity. Institutions are encouraged to develop and facilitate programming to increase the cultural competency of leadership, faculty, staff, and students. Institutions are also encouraged to perform an assessment of their campus climate related to diversity in order to identify areas for improvement.

Finally, the report recommends areas for further study that can help shape a path toward college opportunity and completion for all students.

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