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 society.

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.

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.

March 1998
Copyright 1998. ACCRA. All rights reserved.
Association of American Colleges and Universities.