College Access in 2012: Get hyped but not too hyped!


There are many issues concerning higher education including college access. One major question, is how to open access to all. For example, a major headline in higher education today is that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear the Fisher vs. University of Texas case. Now while this case should be of concern. We shouldn’t get caught up in all of the hype.

For most college campuses, college access is a major topic among students and the greater public; while, it is the lived experience of most college administrators and faculty. Overall, it is a heated topic with many supporters and opponents to affirmative action. The media is having a field day with all of the attention on gritty issues like race-conscious admission policies and diversity. For many people it’s all about getting your opinion heard in the midst all of the hype.

Yet, this is not hype for the many students of Black, Native American, and/or Latino race/ethnicity. This is reality.

As a former Ethnic Minority recruiter, I encountered different instances concerning affirmative action. On one end of the spectrum I’ve had heated accusations from parents about their student’s denied admission letter and then on the other hand I’ve had huge hugs from some parents about their student’s admittance and enrollment at the school.

It is a very passionate conversation but it seems to always center on race. There are other forms of affirmative action such as gender, nationality, legacy, etc.; yet, race is the one that gets all of the hype and attention. What seems to be at work is the psychological term- racial dissonance – where students/people of different races get along until an uncomfortable event or situation occurs, such as competition for college admission. Then, equity and equality can no longer be maintained due to capitalistic motives and criteria such as merit, educational advantages, and wealth are the focus. College admission has nor will be entirely fair. Yet, like many decisions, it takes a holistic view/approach to the individual student’s potential contribution to the university in the form of alumni prestige and giving.

Why do big companies such as Google, Pfizer, Microsoft, etc. have departments for diversity and inclusion outreach? This is an important quality and skill in the workforce to work with different people, practices, and thought. So, diversity and opportunity are important in many areas of society including education and career experiences.

As Scott Jaschik, reporting for Inside Higher Ed, commented on the Fisher case, “In theory, the Supreme Court could rule only on the question of whether universities with admissions plans like that of Texas (a relatively small number) are permitted to also consider race in admissions.” So essentially it’s going to look at the constitutionality of the percent plans to consider race in admission. Yet, he also continues with a warning, “But a reopening of the question of the use of race in admissions decisions could involve broader questions about whether any consideration of race and ethnicity in admissions is appropriate.” This is a possibility since so many people are so hyped to want to talk about affirmative action.

In my opinion, the conversation should be about race relations concerning education since this is the ultimate cause for policies such as affirmative action. It is unequal and unfair but no one wants to offer solutions except to end affirmative action. As higher education professionals, we have to do our research on race in education… not just race in affirmative action. So, as college officials and personnel, we have to be aware of the facts of the Texas case and use the arguments of the Michigan case to show the importance of racial diversity in college. As we know it is important for the future of our students.

PlainSpeak: Be aware of the issues but don’t get caught up in all of the hype.


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