The U.S. departments of Justice and Education have released new guidelines to assist the nation's colleges and universities, as well as elementary and secondary schools, to increase the racial diversity of their campuses. Under the guidelines, higher education institutions may consider socioeconomic factors, residential instability and other hardships in their admissions decisions.
WASHINGTON—The American Federation of Teachers applauds the Obama administration's latest actions to open the door to a college education and to promote greater diversity and opportunity for countless students. These new guidelines, based on recent Supreme Court decisions, provide that institutions "may permissibly aim to achieve a critical mass of underrepresented students," including racial and ethnic minorities. This new approach steps away from the Bush administration's restrictive interpretation of measures available to institutions to increase diversity.
The AFT has a long record of defending affirmative action and promoting diversity in our educational institutions. These include our stands in 2003 supporting the University of Michigan's affirmative action policies and in 2008 calling for greater diversity in the higher education faculty. And our 2010 report, "Promoting Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Faculty: What Higher Education Unions Can Do," noted that students of color face significant barriers in their pathway to a college education.
The new guidelines will help lay the foundation for an increasingly diverse student body and college faculty, and ultimately help educate future generations of Americans.
Our members on campuses across the country are committed to helping an increasingly diverse student body succeed academically and prepare for greater opportunities when their studies are completed. We will redouble our efforts to advocate for policies that help make the dream of a college education a reality for more American students—including full funding for the Pell Grant and TRIO programs, which benefit many of the students affected by the new guidelines, and policies that would reduce the student loan burden by making college more affordable.
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