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 Diversity in Higher Education 

America's colleges and universities differ in many ways. Some are public, others are independent; some are urban universities, some are two-year community colleges, other rural campuses, both large and small. Some offer graduate and professional programs, others focus primarily on undergraduate education. Each of our more than 3,000 colleges and universities has its own specific and distinct mission. This collective diversity among institutions is one of the great strengths of America's higher education system, and has helped make it the best in the world. Preserving that diversity is essential if we hope to serve the needs of our democratic society.

Similarly, many colleges and universities share a common belief, born of experience, that diversity in their student bodies and faculties is important for them to fulfill their primary mission: providing a quality education. The public is entitled to know why these institutions believe so strongly that racial and ethnic diversity should be one factor among the many considered in admissions and hiring. The reasons include:

  • It enriches the educational experience. We learn from those whose experiences, beliefs, and perspectives are different from our own, and these lessons can be taught best in a richly diverse intellectual and social environment.
  • It promotes personal growth - and a healthy society. Diversity challenges stereotyped preconceptions; it encourages critical thinking; and it helps students learn to communicate effectively with people of varied backgrounds.
  • It strengthens communities and the workplace. Education within a diverse setting prepares students to become good citizens in an increasingly complex, pluralistic society; it fosters mutual respect and teamwork; and it helps build communities whose members are judged by the quality of their character and their contributions.
  • It enhances America's economic competitiveness. Sustaining the nation's prosperity in the 21st century will require us to make effective use of the talents and abilities of all our citizens, in work settings that bring together individuals from diverse backgrounds and cultures.

American colleges and universities traditionally have enjoyed significant latitude in fulfilling their missions. Americans have understood that there is no single model of a good college, and that no single standard can predict with certainty the lifetime contribution of a teacher or a student. Yet, the freedom to determine who shall teach and be taught has been restricted in a number of places, and come under attack in others. As a result, some schools have experienced precipitous declines in the enrollment of African-American and Hispanic students, reversing decades of progress in the effort to assure that all groups in American society have an equal opportunity for access to higher education.

Achieving diversity on college campuses does not require quotas. Nor does diversity warrant admission of unqualified applicants. However, the diversity we seek, and the future of the nation, do require that colleges and universities continue to be able to reach out and make a conscious effort to build healthy and diverse learning environments appropriate for their missions. The success of higher education and the strength of our democracy depend on it.

Association Endorsements

AACSB - The International Association for Management Education; ACT (formerly American College Testing); American Association for Higher Education; American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education; American Association of Colleges of Nursing; American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers; American Association of Community Colleges; American Association of Dental Schools; American Association of State Colleges and Universities; American Association of University Professors; American College Personnel Association; American Council on Education; American Indian Higher Education Consortium; American Medical Student Association; American Society for Engineering Education; APPA: the Association of Higher Education Facilities Officers; Association of Academic Health Centers; Association of American Colleges and Universities; Association of American Law Schools; Assocation of American Medical Colleges; Association of Ameircan Universities; Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities; Association of Community College Trustees; Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities; Coalition of Higher Education Assistance Organizations; College and University Personnel Association; Consortium on Financing Higher Education; Council for Advancement and Support of Education; Council of Graduate Schools; Council of Independent Colleges; Educational Testing Service; Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities; Lutheran Educational Conference of North America; NAFSA: Association of International Educators; National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education; National Association of College and University Business Officers; National Association of Graduate and Professional Students; National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities; National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges; National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators; National Association of Student Personnel Administrators; National Collegiate Athletic Association; National Council of Educational Opportunity Associations; NAWE: Advancing Women in Higher Education; The College Board; The College Fund/UNCF; The Education Trust; and University Continuing Education Association.

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