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Biden Administration Offers Colleges Recommendations on Incorporating Student Race in Admissions

Biden Administration Offers New Guidance on College Admissions After Supreme Court’s Affirmative Action Decision

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s recent ruling to prohibit the use of race as a determining factor in college admissions, the Biden administration has taken steps to provide clarity on how race and ethnicity can still be considered within the admissions process. On Monday, the administration unveiled a set of legal resources designed to assist colleges and universities in understanding the boundaries of considering students’ racial backgrounds during the admissions process.

Miguel Cardona, the Secretary of the Department of Education, emphasized that the court’s decision did not negate the importance of diversity in education. He highlighted that institutions could continue or initiate efforts like targeted outreach, recruitment in underserved communities, demographic data collection, and programs to support students from diverse backgrounds.

Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta addressed the core concern of integrating race into admissions, asserting that educational institutions should maintain open doors for students of all backgrounds. She stressed that diversity, including students of color, can contribute positively to campuses when individuals possess qualities necessary for success.

Officials from the Departments of Education and Justice characterized the released resources as a guide outlining the legal framework surrounding racial diversity in university admissions. This move aims to clarify and expand on the Biden administration’s understanding of the Supreme Court’s verdict.

The administration’s guidance emphasized that institutions of higher education can factor in any quality or characteristic relevant to admission decisions, such as courage, motivation, or determination. Even if these characteristics relate to an applicant’s lived experience with race, colleges are within their rights to consider them.

Despite the court’s decision, colleges and universities can still gather data on applicants’ racial backgrounds. However, this information cannot influence admission decisions or infringe on privacy laws.

In response to these changes, some competitive universities have begun altering their application processes to allow students to share more of their personal stories. For example, the University of Virginia announced that admissions officers would no longer have access to self-disclosed racial or ethnic information. Nevertheless, the university will include an essay prompt giving students an opportunity to share experiences, including those related to race or ethnicity, and how these experiences have shaped their abilities to contribute.

The Department of Education’s guidance further encourages institutions to enhance access for underserved populations. It suggests that colleges and universities reassess legacy admission policies (admitting students whose parents attended the institution) and the admission of donor’s children to ensure they align with promoting equal opportunities.

Notably, the Supreme Court’s decision did not address race-based admissions in military academies or scholarship opportunities. The Biden administration continues to collaborate with institutions on addressing these aspects.

Education Secretary Cardona also hinted at a forthcoming comprehensive report on strategies that colleges and universities can employ to attract more diverse applicant pools. This report is anticipated to provide additional insights into promoting inclusivity and diversity within higher education.