- About three-fourths of the National Association for College Admission Counseling's membership — composed largely of college enrollment officials and high school counselors — are White, according to a new report from the group calling for improved diversity in the field.
- Less than half of U.S. college undergraduates and public high school students are White, suggesting a need for more diversity in admissions, the report says.
- The report also offers ideas for bolstering diversity, inclusion and equity training throughout colleges and for recruiting, specifically of more Black male staff.
NACAC's research includes the results of four focus groups with 24 admissions professionals in secondary and postsecondary education.
Only a handful of the college-level participants reported their offices have pursued diversity, equity and inclusion efforts specifically for higher ed admissions officials. The most common practices they did report were providing training on these issues and hiring specialists to help diversify the student body.
However, in some cases, colleges may face pushback to this type of training. One institution fielded complaints from White staff members who called it reverse racism.
"Additional information to emphasize the importance of these trainings is needed from leadership," the report says of that college. "For now, the trainings have been suspended — they were 'brushed under the rug' rather than being dealt with head on."
Several institutions developed admissions-specific diversity roles in the past two years following the country's racial reckoning after the police killing of George Floyd in in 2020. However, two of the officials in the focus groups said those positions had been on their campuses for a decade.
In most cases, admissions staff with a diversity focus oversee scholarships and outreach to historically underserved communities. And certain applicants, including first-generation ones, are directed to these officials.
The field needs to be more representative of student bodies, the report states. It calls attention to a lack of Black men in admissions, noting at one college "the majority of men of color who students see are maintenance and janitorial staff, not administrative or managerial staff."
However, many institutions are challenged to find diverse candidates. Stressors brought on by the coronavirus pandemic — an exodus of employees known as the Great Resignation — compounded staffing challenges, three focus group participants reported.
The admissions field may struggle to attract a diverse workforce because college students who might otherwise go into admissions are often shepherded into higher-paying fields, the report suggests.
"A participant concurred that admission staff often end up in the field by chance; they do not set out on a pathway to admissions beginning in college," it says.
NACAC should stoke interest in admissions for men of color, according to the report, which also suggested additional training and publications targeted at these individuals once they enter the field. Already having role models on staff to encourage these men is helpful as well, the report says.
And the association should try to make conferences more accessible to those from diverse backgrounds.
Meanwhile, data shows a majority of college professors are White. Colleges — including big-name institutions like Ohio State University, Dartmouth College and the University of California, Berkeley — have started diversity-centered hiring initiatives.
NACAC's new report outlines recent advances in admissions equity, among them the explosion in colleges no longer requiring SAT and ACT scores and recent criticism around legacy preferences.
On the former front, California State University, the largest public four-year college system in the country, on Wednesday discontinued use of standardized assessments in admissions.