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Socio-economic versus Racial Diversity – Seeking ‘real’ diversity in Higher Education

What is real diversity? While some consider diversity to be a socio-economic ideal, others emphasis ethnic or gender definitions.  When it comes to the higher educational departments, racial diversity is generally emphasized when an organization looks to increase its diversity numbers.  In order to help increase low income student representation, Michael Bloomberg launched the American Talent Initiative (ATI) two years ago. ATI “aims to expand college access for talented low-income students,” while enrolling and graduating at least 50,000 low income students by the year 2025.

According to the New York Times, “Bloomberg is creating a coalition of colleges committed to diversity including public universities like Berkeley, Michigan and USC to private colleges like Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, Rice and Duke. We would hope all the Ivies would join this coalition along with top liberal arts colleges like Amherst, Williams, Middlebury, Swarthmore and Carleton, and stop focusing on minority “quotas” and more on serving the bottom 2/5 of the income distribution (fairly easily measured by Pell Grant recipients).”   Programs like these are in dire need as research indicates that over 50% of low income students do not apply for college, and around 6% of students at the top colleges are classified as low income.

Almost all of the top academic universities in particular the Ivy League Universities, have good diversity numbers. The reason being is because they usually include Asian Americans as under-represented. Dr. Michele Hernandez points a flaw in the current diversity numbers. “In effect, these admissions officers are labeling Asians “under-represented” and it’s hypocritical and dishonest to report Asian students in the “students of color” number when Asians make up 18-20% of that 30% and actual under-represented minority students closer to 10-12%.”

Racial diversity is important but socio-economic diversity is important as well.  It not only offers students of color opportunities but it brings a new perspective to the university while, “getting colleges to live up to their ideals.”

-Ray Hayes

Huffington Post

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