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The Hechinger Report | PACE UNIVERSITY

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"The Hechinger Report" featured Pace University in "Some colleges seek radical solutions to survive"

10/11/2019

"The Hechinger Report" featured Pace University in "Some colleges seek radical solutions to survive"

A faster way in is by selling corporate training to their employers, who pay full price without requiring the colleges to give discounts or financial aid. Pace University, for example, has a deal with AT&T, Verizon and a coalition of other companies to train network technicians in the telecommunications industry.

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"The Hechinger Report" featured Pace University President Marvin Krislov in "America's colleges struggle to envision the future of diversity on campus"

01/16/2019

"The Hechinger Report" featured Pace University President Marvin Krislov in "America's colleges struggle to envision the future of diversity on campus"

America’s colleges struggle to define, let alone achieve, diverse campuses in today’s identity-centric and socioeconomically divided climate

“Diversity” was top of mind when Angel Carter was applying to schools.

Raised in an African-American enclave in Atlanta, she said, “I would have loved to go to an HBCU,” the acronym for historically black colleges and universities. But college should stretch you, she felt, so Carter chose Tulane, where the student body is 75 percent white.

“I hadn’t had many interactions with white people,” said Carter, now a senior majoring in anthropology and cell biology. “I wanted to work on that: How do I code switch? How do I approach situations with people who do not look like me?”

Research backs up what Carter perceived — that exposure to people with different voices and experiences yields better learning. It’s also a fashionable mantra in admissions offices across the country. It’s bragged about, even marketed.

But as admissions officers judge the means and merits of applicants for the Class of 2023, what should they look for? Diversity matters — intensely and arguably more than ever before — but in the wake of the Harvard admissions trial alleging bias against Asian-Americans, there is no trusty blueprint. Like the country itself, struggling to transition away from a straight, white, male-centered culture, campuses are laboring to find the best way to evolve.

“It just feels like we are in some kind of storm,” said Joyce E. Smith, chief executive officer of the National Association for College Admissions Counseling. “The political landscape is truly affecting our work, our priorities and our consideration for what diversity in admissions has meant in the past and what it will mean in the future.”

Now, when colleges talk about “diversity,” they are as confused as anyone about what it means. Yes, it is about representing all the usual demographic categories. But it’s also about harder-to-pin-down qualities. Matthew T. Proto, dean of admissions and financial aid at Colby College in Maine, said “we are not actually looking for the perfect student, but the student who brings a certain diversity of thought.”

The quest to concoct a splendid campus mix has become maddeningly slippery. The Harvard case (with a final hearing scheduled for mid-February) focuses narrowly on race and procedural questions about how Harvard assesses Asian-American applicants versus others during admissions reviews. But what’s really on the table is the dicey matter of how diversity gets measured — and, even now, what exactly it is.

Which is more distinguishing: test scores or what you represent? Should a student’s race, socioeconomic status, gender identity, political views, obstacles overcome — their “distance travelled,” in admissions-speak — all be treated as potential forms of merit? How can admissions officers, asked Smith, “be fair when you have all these competing and logical arguments for a place at the table, a place on campus, a voice being recognized and heard?”

A complicating factor this admissions season, she said, is that campuses are worrying that unhappy applicants could trigger “some level of scrutiny or legal challenge for how they admit students.” Some 40 years of case law have set rules for the use of race in admissions, but across the country, college leaders wonder whether they need, if not new rules, new practices.

“It’s hard to argue that race and ethnicity is not important, but it is not the only form of diversity,” said Marvin Krislov, president of Pace University. Colleges, he said, require “people of different viewpoints: religious diversity, urban, rural, economic, public school, private school.”

Krislov was vice president and general counsel at the University of Michigan in 2003 when the Supreme Court ruled in Gratz v. Bollinger that automatically awarding underrepresented minorities 20 points in admissions (out of 100 needed) was unconstitutional, because it “ensures that the diversity contributions of applicants cannot be individually assessed.” Racial bonus points, in other words, overwhelmed the larger goal of picking applicants based on individual qualities and accomplishments.

Yet admissions is always about more than the individual’s record. It matters, said Krislov, “how the person fits in relative to others.” What do they bring that is unique, yet enhances a community? A challenge specific to Harvard, said Julie J. Park, associate professor at the University of Maryland College of Education and author of “Race on Campus: Debunking Myths with Data,” is that Asian-Americans are raised such that “applying to Harvard, it’s in the Kool-Aid.”

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