Defining Diversity at America’s Elite Colleges

The practice of Affirmative Action — at Harvard and all colleges across the land — is in great peril.

We were recently asked if America’s elite colleges will choose to define diversity differently in the event our nation’s highest court outlaws Affirmative Action in the months to come. As loyal readers of our college admissions blog know all too well, we believe the United States Supreme Court will ban race-conscious admissions, a.k.a. Affirmative Action. In fact, Ivy Coach’s crystal ball has gone so far as to project a surprising 5-3 decision in favor of the ban with conservative Chief Justice John Roberts siding with his liberal colleagues, Justice Elana Kagan and Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Incoming Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson agreed to recuse herself from the case during her confirmation hearing since Harvard University is the defendant and she has served on the Harvard Board of Overseers. So, in the event our crystal ball reading is correct (as it so often is), will America’s elite colleges redefine diversity to maintain a heterogenous student body?

Our short answer: no. Some, for instance, have asked if America’s elite colleges will seek to enroll a more socioeconomically diverse class in lieu of a more racially diverse class. But there is great overlap between socioeconomic diversity and racial diversity at America’s top schools. Many low-income and first-generation college students, highly coveted groups by admissions officers, happen to be underrepresented minorities. These students are in the same section of the Venn diagram. These students check multiple diversity boxes for elite colleges.

The fact of the matter is even if the consideration of race in admissions decision-making is banned, even if, for instance, there will be no box for applicants to denote their race, admissions officers at our nation’s elite universities are surely going to figure out a workaround. Because under no circumstances will admissions officers — folks who for so long have sought to admit deserving underrepresented minority students to their institutions — allow the percentage of these young people to drop on their campuses. You don’t think they’ll be able to figure out an applicant’s race without an ethnicity check-box? Of course they’ll be able to! They can see where mom and dad are from and where they went to college. They can see an applicant’s name. This does not take detective work to discern.

Thus even if Affirmative Action is banned — and our crystal ball predicts it will indeed be banned — we believe that the more things will change, the more they will remain the same. You heard it here first.

 
 

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