Post-SCOTUS Ruling: Continuing to Fight for Equity in Education

As a mission-driven organization committed to fighting for equity in education, we stand in solidarity with the countless colleges and universities who have expressed their disappointment in last week’s ruling from the Supreme Court on the inclusion of race in college and university admissions. Our thoughts immediately go to the enrollment offices that we serve and more importantly, the students who are exploring if higher education is a path that is truly accessible to them.  

Students and enrollment leaders are scrambling to work through the impact that this decision will have on their futures. We remain steadfast in our belief that education is the catalyst for individual success and community transformation. We are committed to ensuring that students and institutions continue to be empowered to create meaningful connections so that community transformation can truly occur. The fact is, ACT and Encoura have been serving students and institutions in nine states with such race-conscious admissions bans already in place: Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma, New Hampshire, Michigan, Nebraska, and Washington. 

Despite these bans, higher education institutions in these states remain committed to diversity, equity, inclusion, and access. Their mission statements, strategic plans, and enrollment offices continue to emphasize a dedication to DEI enrollment efforts—even without some of the fundamental tools that are available to their peers and competitors in other states. However, despite these strong DEI efforts, effects of the bans continue to linger. Both students and institutions in these parts of the country have faced significant challenges. This challenge will now extend to higher education institutions nationwide. 

Enrollment history in these states shows the negative impact of these bans. Research indicates that in states where race-based admission bans were introduced, there was an initial decline in admissions for Black, Hispanic, and Native American students at affected institutions (mainly public colleges/universities), followed by a slight rebound after institutions adapted, but without returning to pre-ban levels. 

While this ruling is very discouraging for U.S. higher education, there is evidence that when faced with adversity, our educational system can adapt, especially with the support of mission-driven institutions like ACT and Encoura. 

During this pivotal moment, our organization is poised to support the broad reach of students and diverse range of higher education partners we serve, keeping key factors top of mind: 

  • The ruling will have a varied impact across different institutions: ACT and Encoura serve institutions across the selectivity scale. The competitive admission process discussed in the ruling does not represent the circumstances of all students and colleges in the U.S. According to IPEDS data, most four-year institutions admit the majority of their applicant pools. Many campuses are focused more on creating more diverse pools of inquiries and applicants at the top of the funnel, as well as convincing their admitted students to choose their colleges—not necessarily on choosing which students to admit for a limited number of seats available. Encoura is prepared to support all our partners as they navigate new challenges from across the range of impact.  
  • We can learn from each other: In states with existing race-conscious admission bans, enrollment management professionals have had to creatively adapt with a greater focus on first-generation students, those with higher financial need, those from historically underserved schools, and other socioeconomic factors. More work has been done (and still can be) throughout the student journey to be more inclusive of underserved populations in marketing segmentation, messaging, and outreach.  
  • Understand your data to understand your students: For many, the state-based bans already in effect prompted institutions to be more conscious of available data and how to use it effectively to continue to pursue their DEI objectives. This led to greater awareness and intentionality in market research, data transparency across campus, and new efforts to design a more inclusive student recruitment experience overall. Encoura has already been working to best support students and higher education institutions with new resources and robust engagement tools.  

As the ruling undergoes its legal interpretation process and the implementation details come into focus, the steps taken to respond to state-specific bans cannot yet be assumed to be the same steps schools can legally take to respond to the SCOTUS ruling. As institutions look for support, Encoura is committed to take the time to listen, learn about flaws in the educational system that we can improve to counteract the ruling’s potential negative impact, and leverage our unique position to take meaningful action for the betterment of students and higher education overall.  

 

Disclaimer: Please note that we are not providing legal advice in this reflection. We strongly encourage each institution to engage with their own legal counsel to ensure legal recruitment, admission, and enrollment of all students.