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Why doesn’t the Education Department collect racial data on college applicants?

Why doesn’t the Education Department collect racial data on college applicants?

Higher Ed Dive

Jeremy Bauer-Wolf
November 29, 2022
In many higher education circles, it’s a foregone conclusion the conservative-tilted U.S. Supreme Court will rule against race-conscious admissions next year, halting the practice for colleges nationwide.
Practically, this prohibition would affect a small slice of institutions, as most colleges accept a lion’s share of applicants. But experts do anticipate striking down race-conscious practices would weaken student body diversity on those campuses, and more broadly, college leaders are concerned about the message an adverse ruling would send to historically underrepresented applicants.
To combat potential decay of campus diversity, colleges — but also policymakers, education advocates and higher ed associations — will need more information about admissions trends, one researcher argues.
James Murphy, senior policy analyst at think tank Education Reform Now, in a new report calls for the U.S. Department of Education to take on this task. He argues the Education Department should ask more granular questions about applicants and admitted students, like their race and ethnicity, in an annual survey administered to colleges.
Colleges already report this type of demographic data about enrolled students, but Murphy says diversity-minded institutions will want to know, for instance, whether in the admissions process they’re failing to attract applicants of color, or they are rejecting them in large numbers.
“It’s not enough to look at enrollment to figure out the impact of admissions policies, especially after getting rid of race-conscious admissions,” Murphy said in a telephone interview Tuesday.
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