The recent Supreme Court rulings on affirmative action represent another fundamental change for schools to manage on top of the new FAFSA, a major shift in Student Search, and a market that is experiencing a rapid test-optional-driven, post-Covid restructuring.
We recently discussed the impact of the Supreme Court rulings in a live Q&A featuring James Day, Founding Principal at MARKETview; Heath Einstein, Dean of Admission at Texas Christian University; and Elena Hicks, Assistant Vice Provost and Dean of Admission at Southern Methodist University.
Below are some of the key takeaways to help institutions to better understand and react to the implications of the Supreme Court Rulings on affirmative action.
Live Q&A: How Will the Supreme Court’s Ruling on Affirmative Action Impact My Institution?This live Q&A discussed what the recent Supreme Court rulings on affirmative action mean for institutions in the U.S.
1. The rulings present an opportunity to foster stronger collaboration.
The rulings will impact every institution in the U.S., though not all equally. Similar to how the pandemic fostered collaboration between colleagues across institutions to share resources and strategies to meet an emerging, universal challenge, this is another moment where collaboration can help schools mitigate the challenges ahead.
Within an institution, it’s important to collaborate across units and focus on your goals. If your school wants to reach a better state of diversity, inclusion, and belonging, the entire community needs to be connected and aligned toward this outcome.
“ The opportunity is to join colleagues that I haven’t had a chance to see on a regular basis and who are passionate about what we are doing in admission.”Elena Hicks, Assistant Vice Provost and Dean of Admission at Southern Methodist University
Hicks noted that her team constantly reminds their campus community that responding to the ruling (and recruiting students) is not just an admissions issue, It’s a university issue.
“Because we all know that enrolling a class is a community enterprise,” Einstein added.
2. Evaluate the practices you already have in place
Depending on the institution type, an enrollment leader may feel increased and uncomfortable scrutiny in response to the rulings. Einstein recalled some of the conversations he had with his legal counsel. They asked Einstein and his team to think through three questions.
First, what are the ways that data on race is used in their admissions operations and what impact does this data have on TCU’s ability to achieve their goals? Second, what would happen if this tool was removed—what would be the impact on reaching the same goals? Finally, if this data was removed, what would they need to do to reach those goals instead?
“To understand the impact really requires an analysis of how blunt an instrument you were already using before the decision.”Heath Einstein, Dean of Admission at Texas Christian University
The panel also noted that while the focus of understanding the impact of the ruling is often on undergraduate admissions practices, graduate admissions should not be overlooked. Particularly because graduate programs are often decentralized and have their own individualized admissions practices. Graduate teams need to be engaged in discussions about changing any practices, so they remain compliant and have access to the resources they need to make decisions.
3. More than ever it is imperative to focus on your mission
Both Einstein and Hicks shared that their mission statements drive their work and anchor their decisions, perhaps now more than ever. Einstein noted that the court made it clear that universities have the authority to create a mission and engage in activities necessary to succeed. Einstein discussed his work meeting with trustees, deans, and faculty to talk about the specific actions his office is taking while laying the foundation for better campus-wide engagement.
“This is an opportunity to coalesce your speaking points [in response to the ruling] as an institution.”Heath Einstein, Dean of Admission at Texas Christian University
This may shift some of the decision-making and resources available to sustain your school’s mission. For example, can faculty interact more (or differently) with students in the inquiry stage, or should trustees be having conversations about how to allocate financial resources in support of students with greater needs?
“We can say to our board of trustees, here are the things that you can do to help us in this process that we have not had before.”Elena Hicks, Assistant Vice Provost and Dean of Admission at Southern Methodist University
4. Think about compartmentalizing the work into different stages of the cycle and focus on new opportunities in each stage.
One way to think about the work of admissions is to break activities up into different categories. One category is the recruitment process, that is, how to encourage students to apply. The second is the actual application and admissions process while the third is the activities centered on yield. So, from this perspective, only one of these three categories is directly affected by the ruling. This obviously puts a higher premium on building a more diverse applicant pool and making the necessary financial decisions to encourage yield among the groups you wish to enroll, but it also points to where schools can best focus their efforts to reach their goals.
“Diversity is a totally laudable goal, and it’s a matter of how you get there. You must have race-neutral practices. That does not mean you have to have race-neutral outcomes.”Heath Einstein, Dean of Admission at Texas Christian University
Einstein also pointed out that it is extremely important for the campus culture to evolve and ensure that these students feel welcomed. “We’re only going to be able to enroll students who see themselves here,” said Einstein.
5. Leverage better data with a MARKETview partnership
Using tools like College Board Landscape and MARKETview, both Einstein and Hicks can identify and engage with the right students so they can reach their institution’s diversity goals. The benefit of a MARKETview partnership is that enrollment teams can gain these insights much earlier into the cycle than ever before.
“We were one of the early adopters of MARKETview. We know we have things in place that will be extremely helpful to us and will keep the train moving.”Elena Hicks, Assistant Vice Provost and Dean of Admission at Southern Methodist University
If a partner school has a goal to increase diversity, MARKETview provides an aggregated data set that can help campus leaders identify a more diverse pool earlier, proxy for diversity in numerous ways, understand the composition of their pool (and how it compares to other peer and aspirant institutions) in real-time, and know if they are on track to meet their target.