Where higher ed goes now that Affirmative Action is no more

Today the Supreme Court struck down affirmative action as a criteria for admissions to colleges and universities. This, along with the Shelby case, has been a steady march towards rolling back decisions that counteract systemic racism.

This is a huge blow to equality. While support for affirmative action as steadily eroded, at the same time, Americans say that racism is still a problem. Americans see racism as a problem, but support has eroded for the tool of affirmative action in decreasing systemic racism.

So where does Higher Ed go from here? In industry, hiring based on someone's race has been illegal for some time. Higher Ed had a carve out, but when you are hiring someone, you can't take into consideration their intersectional identity. If these Higher Educational Institutions are going to continue to support making their institutions more diverse, they are going to have to change how they conduct admissions and how they influence who applies to their institution.

In industry, there are two areas where attempt to promote diversity in our organizations.

1) Hiring Process

2) Hiring Pipeline

For Higher Ed, they are going to have to first look at their admissions process. Things like standardized tests have known racial and socio-economic bias. They are going to need better tools to evaluate applicants. They are also going to have to look at the weights of academic success (GPA), civic engagement (volunteering) and legacy status, as they all have bias against folks with different backgrounds. First step is taking historical data and normalizing these factors across race and identity to better calibrate their admissions criteria to limit bias.

Second is pipeline. Universities do some marketing to drive in applicants, usually around standardized test scores. Going forward, Higher Educational Institutions are going to have to be more thoughtful about who they engage with to drive in applicants.  While race can no longer be a factor in admissions, it can be a factor in outreach. Universities are going to have to identify zip codes, schools and other proxies to engage prospective students to build a diverse pipeline of applicants. If the pipeline is diverse and the admissions criteria has limited bias than the resulting student population will naturally reflect the pipeline.

This is all way easier said than done. Most organizations have trouble building diverse teams, even with known methods that improve diversity. Higher Ed, though, has the advantage of continually renewing their student populations (every year a new student cohort of similar size is added allowing for quicker changes in population characteristics vs a company that retains its staff over years), which makes me more hopeful that these institutions can be more effective in promoting diversity with these tools than industry has been.

Overall, this is a big change and will have immediate impact on equal access to the best institutions in the country. My hope is that Universities don't just give up, but rather revitalize how they admit students and who they encourage to apply, to ameliorate the effects of the Harvard/UNC decision. There have been methods developed by industry to handle this, but it will take a lot of effort from Universities to adapt and adopt these methods to continue their mission of providing equal access regardless of identity.

Trent Krupp

Founded Threaded: The personal rolodex built from your existing data. Previously, Head of Product at Impact, a market network serving the entertainment industry as well as Head of Revenue at Triplebyte and Hired. Founded an agency in my 20's, sold it to Hired and became employee 5. Recruited for VCs, growth and public companies. Helped the founders of recruitment tech startups Shift.org, Trusted Health, Terminal and Beacon in the early days.