Affirming Racial Equity and Inclusion in Higher Education is More Critical Than Ever Before

For the past nineteen years, the Campaign for College Opportunity has been the only independent voice in California exclusively focused on expanding college access, improving college completion, and closing the equity gaps by race that persist in higher education. Our commitment to advocating for students’ rights to a higher education free of barriers has never been as crucial as it is now with a U.S. Supreme Court decision that has ended nearly 60 years of race-conscious college admissions.

Equal Opportunity to College: The National Imperative

A college degree provides unrivaled social and economic benefits, but beyond the individual benefit of a college education, the future of California and the United States depends on our ability to tap into the diverse talent of all Americans. This mission is more urgent than ever: today more than half of K-12 students attending U.S. public schools are Latinx, Black, Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (NHPI) and American Indian/Alaska Native (AIAN). This ruling is a threat to America’s multi-racial democracy and economy – a direct attack on the progress we have built as a nation.

By banning race-conscious college admissions, the Supreme Court has outlawed a powerful lever that has been used to address the legacy of racial injustice and advance the inclusion and integration of Latinx, Black, Asian American, NHPI, and AIAN students in higher education. However, this ruling is not a cause for excuse: our institutions will not regress to the pre-Civil Rights Era of exclusion, which closed the doors to opportunity for countless Black, Latinx, Native, and Asian American students. There is no substitute for race-conscious admissions, and while we condemn the loss of this cornerstone to prosperity and the American Dream, we know that affirmative action is not a fix-all solution. That’s why federal, state, and college leaders must leverage every tool and policy that advances racial equity in higher education.

Learning from California

For over twenty-five years, California has had a ban on the use of race-conscious admissions at its public universities, which has seriously affected marginalized students and access to higher education. Since then, the state has developed paths for improving racial equity at our colleges and universities. The Campaign has been proud to lead and join efforts to challenge and end practices that have a disparate impact on Latinx, Black, Asian American, NHPI, and AIAN students. This includes championing historic reforms, such as:

The Campaign for College Opportunity is drawing on the California experience in partnership with national experts and scholars to uplift proactive, evidence-based solutions to address inequities in college preparation, admissions, placement practices, and transfer to ensure minoritized students have a real equitable opportunity to go to college and succeed, in response to the U.S. Supreme Court decision.

Affirming Equity. Ensuring Inclusion. Empowering Action.

Affirming Equity, Ensuring Inclusion, Empowering Action is a national effort where we seek to promote evidence-based solutions via a series of papers and toolkits that advance more equitable strategies in college preparation, access, and completion, including issues of course placement practices, transfer, and more, to ensure those who have been historically excluded and underserved by our colleges and universities have a real opportunity to go to college and succeed amid this court ruling.

This effort is being led by the Campaign for College Opportunity and informed by national experts and scholars who have been leaders and practitioners across the nation advancing equity-minded agendas that have contributed to ensuring underrepresented minoritized students have an equal opportunity to access and earn a college degree.

Make no mistake, race-conscious admissions has been a powerful tool to address the legacy of racism and segregation in higher education, but it was never a panacea. More must and can be done to make college and university admissions truly equitable in opportunity for all Americans, not just the privileged few. Our Affirming Equity, Ensuring Inclusion, Empowering Action briefs focus on what state, college, and university leaders CAN do to lead for students at this critical time.

Read the brief series

Affirming Equity. Ensuring Inclusion. Empowering Action.


“The Arc of the Moral Universe is Long, But it Bends Toward Justice.”

Today’s fight for equal opportunity in higher education builds on the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement. It was Black, Latinx, Asian American, NHPI and AIAN communities that risked their lives to end segregation in our schools, to protest unequal education funding and racism in our classrooms, and to push for the consideration of race as one of many factors in university admissions. We have all inherited a better America because of their work. Today, we carry their torch forward and refuse to go back to an era of exclusion.

We will continue the march toward justice and will be unapologetic about the economic, moral, and democratic imperative for equity in higher education. Join us!

Thank You to Our Expert Advisors

This effort is guided by the expertise of higher education leaders nationwide, who are together leading the charge to protect equal opportunity in college admissions.

Dominique J. Baker, Ph.D

Associate Professor of Education Policy and Leadership
SMU Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development

Estela M. Bensimon, Ph.D.

USC Center for Urban Education

Maria Blanco

Former Executive Director
UC Immigrant Legal Services Center

Sally Chen

Education Equity Policy Manager
Chinese for Affirmative Action

Stella M. Flores, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Higher Education and Public Policy
University of Texas at Austin

Saul Geiser, Ph.D.

Senior Associate
UC Berkeley Center for Studies in Higher Education

Lisa Holder

Equal Justice Society

Sylvia Hurtado, Ph.D.

Professor of Education
UCLA School of Education and Information Studies

Mayah Lubin

Higher Education Equity Senior Coordinator

Christopher Nellum, Ph.D.

Executive Director
The Education Trust-West

Gary Orfield, Ph.D.

The Civil Rights Project at UCLA

Vincent Pan

Co-Executive Director
Chinese for Affirmative Action

Julie J. Park, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Education
University of Maryland, College Park

Jay Rosner

Executive Director
The Princeton Review Foundation

Thomas A. Saenz

President and General Counsel

Sbeydeh Viveros-Walton

Director of Higher Education
Public Advocates

J. Luke Wood, Ph.D.

Distinguished Professor & Equity Driven Leader
San Diego State University

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