Institutions of Higher Ed Should Function not as Wheels of Privilege but as True Engines of Equity
Ed Trust Statement on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision upholding University Of Texas at Austin’s affirmative action plan
WASHINGTON (June 23, 2016) – José Luis Santos, Ph.D., vice president of higher education policy and practice, issued the following statement today on the U.S. Supreme Court’s Fisher v. University of Texas decision.
“Today’s Supreme Court decision to uphold University of Texas’ racial preferences in university admissions marks a victory for educational equity and opportunity. This is a long-fought win for campus leaders pushing for their institutions to educate an increasingly diverse population.
“Those of us who have spent our careers in higher education know that, despite some progress, students of color are still seriously underrepresented on our nation’s campuses. While underrepresentation is not the focus of many campus leaders, others are taking aggressive action to open their gates to more students of color.
“We also know that, despite progress, students of color in our K-12 systems still go underserved. Nationally, African American and Latino students in our public schools receive less of everything that matters, from their fair share of high-quality teachers to their fair share of school-level funding, as well as access to such high-level academic courses as AP and IB programs.
“Because of these shortfalls, which reflect the opportunity gap and not a student’s academic ability, institutions must be able to take into account race in order to provide more students equitable opportunities to succeed in earning a college degree from selective institutions. As Anthony P. Carnevale, director of the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce, said, “We’re holding qualified students back, particularly minorities, saying they can’t succeed when in reality, they indeed can.” His analysis clearly shows that the average student has a better chance (77 percent) of graduating from selective universities compared with open access schools (51 percent).
“The University of Texas at Austin’s affirmative action policies are critical in its ongoing work to diversify its student body. But it still has a great deal of work to do as African American and Latino students continue to be significantly underrepresented on campus. Sadly, this is still true at many higher education institutions across the country.
“As a nation we still have a long way to go, both in higher education and in K-12, to ensure that our public institutions function not as wheels of privilege but as true engines of equity. All of our young people should have access to the high-quality education they so richly need — and deserve.
“Today, the Supreme Court declared that equity in access matters, not only for students themselves but also for our democracy.”