Diversifying Higher Education – A Post Affirmative Action Path Forward
Today, the Supreme Court has ruled that colleges are no longer allowed to use race as a criterion for admissions. The ruling strips college admissions officers of one of their most effective interventions for making their campuses the types of diverse learning institutions they know will best prepare all students for lifelong success. This decision will exacerbate diversity challenges on campus, make it harder for talented students of color to achieve their dreams, and send the wrong signal to students currently on campuses across the country.
One main reason colleges use race as a factor in college admissions is best highlighted by the adage that while talent is equally distributed, opportunity is not. Most students of color go to underresourced high schools that do not provide them the opportunities they need to develop the credentials selective colleges are looking for in admissions. For example, more than half of the public high schools where Black and Latino students make up the majority of enrollment do not offer AP Calculus – a gateway course to many top selective colleges.
This understanding forms the foundation for Thrive’s programming. By providing the academic support and access to opportunity in high school that more privileged students take for granted to a broader, more diverse range of students, we help talented students develop the credentials, skills, and experiences top colleges are looking for.
We start with our Summer Academy, an academically intensive program over two summers in the 11th and 12th grade where our Scholars attend a daily three-hour calculus class and a three-hour college writing course every day for six weeks each summer, taught by college professors on a college campus.
The data on this intervention is overwhelming. Over 40% of our economically disadvantaged students who participate in our Summer Academy attend Ivy Plus colleges, with 85% attending the Top 50 schools. And these students have a higher college GPA, are 10% more likely to graduate, and are 33% more likely to persist in STEM than students of all demographic backgrounds who attend their same top schools. The data is clear – these students have the talent and determination to succeed; they just need the same access to opportunity and skills building that others take for granted.
While the laws may change, our values will not. We believe high-achieving students of color belong in higher ed institutions. Diverse college campuses are important. We will work with our academic partners to comply with all laws as we advance our mission in this new environment. We believe our mission is more relevant and vital now than ever before and will continue to support underserved talent in their academic and career journeys.