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Dive Brief:

  • Accrediting agencies can enhance campus diversity following the overturn of race-conscious admissions by focusing on admissions requirements, according to a brief from New America, a left-leaning think tank.
  • They can influence colleges to move to test-optional or test-blind admissions, the brief states. Research suggests going test-optional modestly increases enrollment of students from underrepresented racial groups. 
  • Accreditors can also steer admissions policies away from requiring applicants to take advanced-level or college-ready courses, which not all K-12 schools have resources to provide.

Dive Insight:

Colleges have long grappled with how to create and maintain diverse student bodies — a goal likely made more difficult with the U.S. Supreme Court decision against race-conscious admissions in June. The Biden administration has released guidelines for colleges, but New America says accreditors can also help. 

“Accreditors are in the perfect position as guardians of federal financial aid to promote diversity on college campuses around the country,” the brief said. 

In addition to admissions, accreditation standards can also help diversify faculty and student supports that colleges offer.

One requirement could be giving underrepresented students access to culturally-specific programs and resources, New America said. And accreditors could pressure colleges to hire diverse faculty members, to students’ benefit.

The accreditation process can also help counteract state laws meant to rollback diversity protections.

New America referenced Florida and Texas, two Republican-led states that both have recently banned DEI offices and programs at their public colleges.

Conservative lawmakers have also taken aim at the accreditation process, even before the Supreme Court’s decision.

Florida is suing the Education Department over college accreditation, alleging the process unconstitutionally privatizes legislative power. The lawsuit comes after the state passed a law last year forcing public colleges to switch accreditors every cycle, which typically run between five to 10 years. 

North Carolina introduced a similar proposal in May. It is still making its way through the legislature. 

Almost all of the major accreditors currently include diversity, equity and inclusion metrics in their standards. But in June, Republican lawmakers, led by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, introduced a bill designed to prohibit these policies in accreditation.

At the time, Rubio said the bill aimed to prevent “a politicized Department of Education from further forcing diversity, equity, and inclusion policies into higher education.”