In the AAC&U journal Diversity & Democracy, Tania LaViolet and Josh Wyner highlight how diversity and equity can go hand in hand with excellence at selective colleges.
The notion that quality in undergraduate education should transcend sector and segment—from community colleges and regional public universities to state flagships and Ivy League schools—is undisputed. However, college ranking systems sometimes equate quality with spending and selectivity rather than with ensuring success for a wide variety of students. Consequently, in colleges and universities with the highest graduation rates, diversity and equity issues have often taken a backseat to other priorities.
Selective colleges and universities increasingly understand, however, that the pursuit of excellence must include efforts to increase student diversity and equity in educational outcomes. They recognize the research demonstrating that pipelines of talented students have gone untapped, that demographics of prospective students are shifting, and that diversity can improve the quality of learning in higher education and innovation in the workplace. Despite decades of inertia on the issue, we are optimistic that selective colleges and universities—as a sector—are approaching an inflection point.