Holistic Admissions Practices On the Rise Following the Repeal of Affirmative Action

More than half of respondents in a new Acuity Insights survey say they are moving towards, or have adopted, a holistic admissions approach to achieve their diversity goals.

TORONTO, Oct. 19, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Acuity Insights, provider of the innovative higher education soft skills assessment Casper, revealed new findings today on higher education leaders’ views on the admissions landscape after the Supreme Court’s ruling on affirmative action.

Acuity Insights surveyed 51 admissions leaders from different university customers based in the United States. The survey aimed to uncover how admissions leaders at higher education institutions are reacting to the repeal of affirmative action after the Supreme Court ruling on June 29, 2023. Universities provided insights on how the ruling, which no longer allows institutions to consider race as a part of their admissions process, affects their focus on student diversity, and the strategies they are looking to adopt and execute to deliver on their mission of equitable access.

The survey found that the overwhelming majority (79%) do not favor the removal of affirmative action.

Seventy-three percent of respondents agreed that the ban on affirmative action policies will have a significant impact on the broader landscape of student diversity in higher education. While the ruling was focused on admissions, it is clear that the ramifications can reach far further, resulting in generational impacts on access to education and future earning potential. It falls on the universities and colleges to make decisions this year and in the coming years to ensure fairness in access to higher education.

DEI efforts, legal challenges listed as concerns amongst higher ed professionals

Forty-five percent of respondents indicated that recruiting and retaining a diverse population of students will be the biggest challenge in light of the recent affirmative action ruling. Twenty-four percent answered that sorting out the legal implications post-affirmative action would be the biggest challenge.

Various responses indicated that institutions are overwhelmingly committed to their mission, diversity objectives, or outcomes; however, there are concerns about the impact of the ban on affirmative action on diverse representation amongst students. Seventy-three percent foresee a major or moderate impact on their DEI efforts as a result of the ruling; only 24% anticipate the ruling to have a minor effect.

How are universities actively supporting and nurturing a diverse student population?

Institutions from states that already had affirmative action bans before the Supreme Court ruling and/or some anti-diversity legislation appeared to be more advanced in their adoption of strategies to ensure diversity at their school, indicating the serious work institutions are prepared to do towards achieving their mission of equity and diversity. The rest also indicated that they are on their way to further adoption of such strategies:

  • Overall, 56% respondents indicated that they had moved to holistic admissions, which means they’re looking beyond an applicant’s academic scores and incorporating other non-academic measures to get a more holistic view of applicants, because they believe this approach will surface a more diverse cohort.
    • The number was higher, at almost 70%, for the subgroup of respondents from states that had affirmative action bans before the Supreme Court ruling and/or some anti-diversity legislation
  • 29% of all respondents said they have revised their recruitment strategy to diversify the applicant pool.
    • The number was 38.5% for the subgroup from states that had affirmative action bans before the Supreme Court ruling and/or some anti-diversity legislation.
  • To support their holistic processes, 10% said they have increased the weightage of Acuity’s soft skills assessment, Casper.
    • This number was more than 15% for the subgroup of respondents from states that had affirmative action bans before the Supreme Court ruling and/or some anti-diversity legislation.
  • 15% will assign applicants a score for socioeconomic adversity using socioeconomic factors.
  • The survey also found a strong pattern amongst respondents who are now relying on personal statements and letters of recommendation to gain deeper insights into applicants’ personal experiences. However, this brings with it new challenges since these inputs are known to have low reliability (especially with new technology such as ChatGPT, Bard, or other AI) and are time-consuming to review, putting additional burden on admissions teams.

“We admire our partners for taking the Supreme Court ruling as a challenge to stay true to their mission, while actively working on strategies to ensure equity and diversity through their admissions processes,” said Dr. Kelly Dore, the Acuity Insights Co-Founder and VP, Science & Innovation, and co-creator of the Casper situational judgment test. “The focus on holistic admissions is the best path towards recognizing and rewarding the full potential of every applicant. Looking at the whole applicant – this means reviewing their life experiences, resource access, socioeconomic status, as well as considering non-academic attributes like communication, ethics, and teamwork – in a standardized way will help to pave the way for more equitable admissions. We are committed to – and excited about – supporting our partners and the broader higher education community in this important journey through the continuous improvement and development of products that will support their mission.”

To discover more of our findings from this survey please visit our blog.

Survey Methodology

51 individuals responded to the online and anonymous affirmative action survey provided by Acuity Insights. These individuals are Acuity Insights customers and represent a variety of disciplines from different universities across the United States.

51% of respondents identified that they are from a state where affirmative action was struck down or a state that was passing or working on passing anti-diversity legislation, 43% of respondents are from a state where affirmative action policies were allowed and had no anti-diversity legislation prior to the 2023 Supreme Court ruling – 6% did not indicate the category to which they belonged. The majority of respondents identified themselves in the following roles within their university (9.80% preferred not to disclose their role):

  • Dean/Director of Admissions (25.49%)
  • Associate/Assistant Dean/Director of Admissions (21.57%)
  • Admissions Committee (13.72%)
  • Program Director (15.69%)
  • Other (13.72%)

About Acuity Insights

Acuity Insights is the leading provider of admissions assessment, program management, and analytics solutions for higher education. The company’s solutions help higher education institutions deliver on their mission holistically, considering the whole student, widening pathways into higher education, and ensuring both student and program success. Recognized as one of Deloitte’s Technology Fast 500 companies for 2021 and 2022, Acuity’s solutions are used by nearly 600 higher education programs worldwide. Its Casper situational judgment test (SJT), taken by more than 150,000 applicants every year, is the most widely used open-response SJT in higher education and is backed by almost 20 years of efficacy research. For more information, visit acuityinsights.com.

Media Contact

Brianna Bell, Content & Communications Manager