Advancing Diversity and Opportunity post SCOTUS: Key Learnings from the ED DCL

Amy Jenkins
August 15, 2023

On June 29, 2023, the Supreme Court ruled that the consideration of race in the admissions practices of the University of North Carolina and Harvard College violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This decision raised questions about the future of diversity-focused admissions policies and practices and has sparked a lot of conversations with universities that partner with Meadow and want to maintain a focus on a diverse student body and to make sure they are doing it lawfully. 

The Department of Education just released a set of resources that shed light on the Biden-Harris Administration's commitment to advancing diversity and opportunity in higher education and provide additional guidance.  Below we break down a few of the most important implications for financial aid leaders.

Key Implications for Financial Aid and Scholarships
  • Targeted Outreach and Pathway Programs: The provided resources highlight targeted outreach and pathway programs as legitimate strategies to achieve a diverse student body. This approach aligns with your expertise in financial aid. As Directors of Financial Aid, you can collaborate with admissions offices to design financial aid packages that cater to underrepresented groups. These packages can include grants, scholarships, and work-study opportunities that specifically address the unique challenges these students may face. Your net price calculator is just one of the places you can get these opportunities in front of students.
  • Evaluation of Admission Policies: The Departments' guidance encourages colleges and universities to evaluate their admission policies to ensure they do not create barriers for students based on protected characteristics. Financial aid plays a critical role in removing financial barriers that might disproportionately affect certain demographics. Consider revisiting your institution's financial aid policies to ensure they are equitable and provide adequate support to students of all backgrounds.
  • Retention Strategies and Programs: Retaining a diverse student body is just as important as admitting one. The guidance suggests retention strategies and programs to ensure all students have the resources they need to succeed. Financial aid offices can collaborate with student accounts to improve the student financial experience overall and with student support services to provide ongoing financial counseling, emergency funds, and mentorship programs, which can be particularly beneficial for students who have faced adversity.
  • Measures of Adversity: The upcoming report in September will elevate promising practices that consider measures of adversity in admissions, such as financial circumstances, educational background, and personal experiences of hardship or discrimination. As Directors of Financial Aid, you can advocate for the inclusion of such measures in admissions criteria. This might involve offering additional scholarships or aid to students with unique challenges to ensure they have equal access to education.
Embracing the Opportunity

As leaders in the field of financial aid, your role is pivotal in making diversity and opportunity in higher education a reality. By aligning your strategies with the recommendations outlined in the provided resources, you can help your institution create an inclusive and supportive environment for all students, regardless of their background.

These developments signal a shifting landscape, one where your expertise and creativity in financial aid can make a profound impact. By working closely with admissions teams, support services, and other relevant departments, you can contribute to a higher education system that truly reflects the diverse and promising future of our nation.

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