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Snapshot of Ace Report: Race, Class and College Access

Higher Education Today offered a snapshot from an ACE report, Race, Class and College Access, coauthored by the Civil Rights Project at UCLA and the Center for College & Career Success. The strategy that study participants perceived as being number 3 in the list of 17 effective strategies for achieving racial/ethnic diversity was Holistic Application Review. (Numbers 1 and 2 were Targeted Yield Initiatives and Test-Optional Admissions respectively). Institutions have indicated that they cannot achieve the benefits of a diverse student body without an appropriate population of students. The question is how well-designed is the admissions process that supports that premise.

A recent report, Holistic Review in Graduate Admissions, from the Council of Graduate Schools, has examined holistic review or the review of candidates based on their non-cognitive attributes. Holistic review has been used as a part of the admission process to create a diverse class while also ensuring student success. While there appears to be antidotal evidence supporting this process that it may help students understand how to work in diverse environments after leaving school, there appears to be little evidence data supporting the actual utilization of holistic review in graduate program admission processes. The major impediment to it was reported to be the make-up of the admission team; 75% of the respondents reported academic committees rather than admissions professionals were in charge of the task. There was also little understanding about the key features that part of a holistic review and, without those benchmarks, measuring the links between holistic review and student success becomes even harder to discern.

In fact, the Supreme Court has heard arguments in Fisher v. University of Texas twice, with the case examining the use of race as a factor in acceptance, something that many institutions consider to be an integral part of a holistic review process.

Clearly one important undertaking for all higher education institutions is to review the connections between their admissions criteria and the student success outcomes. Having a clear definition of diversity, and its inherent value to the institution, is one factor that should be developed. Assuring internal and external stakeholders that the admission process is a written procedure that is periodically reviewed and evaluated to determine its success in achieving the desired outcome is also important. The most important take-away should be that higher education institutions see that diversity must be linked to the real mission, student success and excellence.  

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