Academic Affairs

Diversity in Admissions

Diversity in Admissions

Overview | Who | Why | What | How | Resources | Contact

Why: Educational and Legal Context

Educational benefits, research and evidence

Educational benefits of diversity

Over the last thirty years, extensive research has been conducted on the educational benefits of diversity. These studies considered both classroom and informal interactional diversity experiences. Research has been collected from hundreds of different undergraduate and graduate institutions and thousands of students. This research was presented as part of the Gratz and Grutter testimony and the expert reports (for example those of Derek Bok and Patricia Gurin) provides a rich resource on the various research strategies and data sets supporting the impact of diversity on learning outcomes, civic activity and the likelihood for developing diverse friendships and working in desegregated settings for years after college.

These findings were based on research at specific institutions. Institutions seeking to use race and ethnicity as factors in an admissions process should clearly identify how these outcomes are tied to the specific educational goals of their institution and undertake their own research initiative to be able to demonstrate how race-conscious programs serve their educational interest in diversity. Policies should be rooted in a clearly articulated mission and supported by specific institutional research that offers evidence for the educational benefits that accrue from a diverse student body.

Key research and evidence

The research and expert reports from the Gratz and Grutter testimony pointed to many educational benefits of diversity that, since the 2003 decision, are now generally accepted.

"A racially and ethnically diverse university student body has far-ranging and significant benefits for all students, non-minorities and minorities alike. Students learn better in a diverse educational environment, and they are better prepared to become active participants in our pluralistic, democratic society once they leave such a setting." (Summary and Conclusions: Expert Report of Patricia Gurin)

Derek Bok's report cited the "statistically significant association between attendance at the selective institutions and a variety of accomplishments during college and in later life." His research pointed to the importance of admitting a more diverse student body to these institutions so a broader cross-section of applicants can have these opportunities.

Patricia Gurin's report presented research that students "learn more and think in deeper, more complex ways in a diverse educational environment." She examined multi-institutional national data, as well as studies at the University of Michigan. She found that interaction with peers from diverse racial backgrounds resulted in a number of learning related benefits. She examined interactions both within and outside of classrooms settings and found that those students having the widest range of ethnic and racially diverse interactions showed the "greatest engagement in active thinking processes, growth in intellectual engagement and motivation, and growth in intellectual and academic skills."

Anthony Antonio's 2001 research summarizes earlier research and adds his own data on the "strong relationship between friendship group diversity and interracial interaction outside the friendship group." Furthermore, his research indicated diversity within a friendship group was strongly related to students going outside of friendship groups to socialize across racial barriers.