Diversity in Higher Education
America's colleges and universities differ in many ways. Some
are public, others are independent, some are large urban universities,
some are two-year community colleges, others small rural campuses. Some
offer graduate and professional programs, others primarily on undergraduate
education. Each of our more than 3,000 colleges and universities
has its own specific and distinct mission. This collective diversity
among institutions is one of the great strengths of American's higher education
system, and has helped make it the best in the world. preserving
that diversity is essential if we hope to serve the needs of our democratic
Similarly, many colleges and universities share a common belief, born
of experience, that diversity in their student bodies, faculties and staff
is important for them to fulfill their primary mission : providing a quality
education. The public is entitled to know why institutions believe
so strongly that racial and ethnic diversity should be one factor among
the many considered in admissions and hiring. The reasons include:
American colleges and universities traditionally have enjoyed significant
latitude in fulfilling their missions. Americans have understood
that there is no single model of a good college, and that no single standard
can predict with certainty the lifetime contribution of a teacher or a
student. Yet, the freedom to determine who shall teach and be taught
has been restricted in a number of places, and come under attack in others.
As a result, some schools have experienced precipitous declines in the
enrollment of African-American and HIspanic students, reversing decades
of progress in the efforts to assure that all groups in American society
have an equal opportunity for access to higher education.
Diversity enriches the educational experience. We learn from those
whose experiences, beliefs, and perspectives are different from our own,
and these lessons can be taught best in a richly diverse intellectual and
It promotes personal growth -- and a healthy society. Diversity challenges
stereotyped preconceptions; it encourages critical thinking; and it helps
students learn to communicated effectively with people of varied backgrounds.
It strengthens communities and the workplace. Education within a
diverse setting prepares students to become good citizens in an increasingly
complex, pluralistic society; it fosters mutual respect and teamwork; and
it helps build communities whose members are judged by the quality of their
character and their contributions.
It enhances America's economic competitiveness. Sustaining the nation's
prosperity in the 21st century will require us to make effective use of
the talents and abilities of all our citizens, in work settings that bring
together individuals from diverse backgrounds and cultures.
Achieving diversity on college campuses does not require quotas.
Nor does diversity warrant admission of unqualified applicants. However,
the diversity we seek, and the future of the nation, do require that colleges
and universities continue to be able to reach out and make a conscious
effort to build healthy and diverse learning environments appropriate for
their missions. The success of higher education and the strength
of our democracy depend on it.
Copyright 1998. ACCRA. All rights reserved.
Association of American Colleges and Universities.