The United States Supreme Court’s upcoming review of whether or not race can be used as a factor in admissions decisions could affect admissions at the Claremont Colleges, 5C admissions officers said.
“It will be challenging for us if we are told that we cannot take ethnicity into account in making our decisions,” wrote Vice President for Admissions and Financial Aid at Harvey Mudd College Thyra Briggs in an e-mail to The Student Life. “Our office believes that diversity is essential to providing our students with the best education possible.”
Claremont McKenna College (CMC) Associate Vice President of Admission and Financial Aid Georgette DeVeres said a decision prohibiting the use of race as a factor would significantly change the college’s approach to admissions.
“If it’s determined that you cannot use race as a factor, it would challenge us to figure out other ways to achieve the same level of racial and ethnic diversity that we have,” she said.
In 2003, the Supreme Court ruled that colleges could not use a point system to increase diversity in the admissions process, but could consider race as a factor in their admissions process in part to ensure a “critical mass” of students on campus.
The CMC admissions staff followed the 2003 case closely, DeVeres said.
“We concluded that diversity serves as a compelling educational interest to our students who enroll here at CMC,” she said. “I feel that the admissions office is pivotal in terms of trying to identify students to bring to CMC to help increase the numbers, to help to add to the critical mass that’s already here.”
DeVeres defined a critical mass as the number of students on campus from a given underrepresented group, whether it be racial, geographical or socioeconomic underrepresentation. Ideally, students will not feel “like [they’re] the sole person representing a group that doesn’t have much representation on campus,” DeVeres said.
Admissions officers at all of the 5Cs use a holistic evaluation process when deciding whether or not to admit applicants, which involves looking at what qualities each individual applicant would bring to campus.
“Several of the factors that Scripps views as adding to our diversity include geographic location, academic interest, academic and work achievement, socio-economic history, race/ethnicity and extracurricular activities,” wrote Vice President for Enrollment at Scripps College Victoria Romero in an e-mail to TSL. “No one factor is determinative.”
Pomona College strongly considers diversity when accepting applicants, said Vice President and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Seth Allen.
“I see my role and that of the Office of Admissions as one that actively listens to the Pomona community about what kinds of backgrounds, perspectives and diversity is needed in the student body, to look for those qualities in prospective students and encourage application from the most qualified students who may be a good academic and social fit with Pomona,” he said.
DeVeres said the CMC office will follow the upcoming case closely.
“I think this is a very important topic that the nation will be engaged in over the next several months,” she said. “It will be interesting to see what progress [institutions have made], if any at all.”