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The Affirmative Action Ban Is Not an Insurmountable Setback for Higher Education Access

By Arizona State University President Michael Crow:

The US Supreme Court ruling prohibiting the use of race in determining college admissions is a setback in the ongoing fight to expand higher education access, but not an insurmountable one. America’s traditional “elite” institutions face the most significant impact, but universities with broader admissions standards also need to consider its implications.

At a time when innovation is driving massive change, college demand and learner diversity is peaking, and the national six-year college completion rate has stalled at 62 per cent. The risk of the Supreme Court decision discouraging students from pursuing higher learning is a reality we cannot afford to ignore.

Debates about education and social advancement, and the need for egalitarian institutions capable of creating and diffusing knowledge, date back to America’s founding. Education has played a critical role in the evolution of our democracy yet prioritizing equal access to education for all remains elusive.

Affirmative action allowed many marginalized learners access to college, but it was not designed to be the best and only option.

Thirteen years ago, Arizona voters banned state entities, including public universities, from considering race, ethnicity or gender during admissions. However, Arizona State University’s 2002 commitment to inclusion and excellence for all, regardless of background, income or location, meant that the new law had little impact on our efforts. Building steadily since then, we have managed to become one of the largest – and most diverse – universities in the country. Our focused actions have included:

  • Making access and inclusion lead priorities in ASU’s first official charter
  • Fostering a student population that mirrors the ethnic and socioeconomic diversity of Arizona
  • Implementing Access ASU, a state-wide outreach and college readiness initiative that leverages extensive K-12 education and community partnerships to prepare all students to enroll and succeed in higher education
  • Transitioning from a “low cost/low quality” model to a “moderate cost/high quality” one that includes significant university investment in student financial aid and an assurance that finances will not be a barrier to attendance. Approximately 90 per cent of Arizona resident undergraduate students receive scholarships or grants, and the average tuition Arizona residents pay after gift aid is $3,866 per year. Nearly 45 per cent of ASU students graduate with no debt
  • Creating the ASU Preparatory Academy and ASU Prep Digital, high-quality and inclusive in-person and digital charter school programs that prepare K-12 pupils for successful college attendance.

Read the rest of the article in Times Higher Education.