August 14, 2023

Promoting Diversity in Colleges Without Affirmative Action Through School Choice

By: Frances Floresca

When the Supreme Court struck down affirmative action programs in college admissions in June, universities began to rethink how they can promote diversity without affirmative action programs. 

In fact, many colleges have effectively boosted diversity without having affirmative action programs. 

The University of California (UC) system focuses on outreach and engagement to underrepresented students through its Early Academic Outreach Program. These students are provided with assistance filling out college applications and financial aid forms, free PSAT and SAT preparation, campus tours, and weekend and summer enrichment classes. 

While there are solutions universities and states are looking at to promote diversity in colleges, we should not forget college preparation begins while students are still in the K-12 education system. 

Regardless of race, robust school choice will level the playing field for all students. 

All students should have access to every single school choice option as much as possible, and everyone needs to be informed about their options. 

States should expand open enrollment policies for public schools, have charter school choice, reduce barriers to entry in order to start private schools and innovative learning environments, and make it easier for families to homeschool. There also needs to be better access to transportation options for students no matter where they attend school. 

Of course, states should provide school choice scholarships for students, especially when it comes to serving low-income students, many of whom are part of underrepresented communities, such as those who are Hispanic, African-American, and Native American. It will empower all families to find a school that works best for children. 

It is unfortunate that these underrepresented students are in high-poverty schools and neighborhoods, which a Stanford University study noted how low test scores correlate with poverty. While there are still students who can succeed in these schools, there will still be other students who struggle. 

In fall 2021, the National Center for Education Statistics percentage of students attending high-poverty schools was highest for Hispanic students at 38 percent and 37 percent for African-American students, according to the National Center for Education Statistics

One school may work for one student, but the same school may not work for another.

Studies also show how students of low-income families benefit from school choice scholarships as they have shown increased progress within a few years. Many of these low-income students are part of underrepresented communities. 

For example, Erik Gibson from Pennsylvania is an African-American student who was able to get away from a toxic environment at a public school, where he was bullied and even called a racial slur, and the school did not notify his parents about the altercation. 

He was able to attend a private school on the state’s tax-credit scholarship, and he later committed to Cornell University, an Ivy League school. Not only did he commit, but he received a full-ride scholarship for his academics. 

Another school choice success story is Daniel Reyes, who is a Hispanic student from Las Vegas, Nevada. He said he struggled as a public school student, but he was able to attend a private school with help from Nevada’s school choice scholarships for low-income families. 

Reyes is now a first-generation college student at University of Nevada-Las Vegas. 

Underrepresented communities succeed when they have access to every single school choice option possible with or without school choice scholarships, because it helps their families find a school that works best for their child. 

Robust school choice can help lead to better diversity in colleges without affirmative action. It levels the playing field for all students by giving them educational opportunities that work best for them.