Report calls for greater diversity in college counseling, admissions

A new report from the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) highlights opportunities to support diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) within the college counseling and admission professions. While institutions have made efforts in recent years to diversify their student, staff, and faculty pipelines, the report points out that college counseling and admissions professionals remain disproportionately white. NACAC calls on institutions to recruit more diverse staff and step up DEI training so that historically marginalized students see themselves reflected in the institutions responsible for their success.

Related: Report: How could college admissions better promote racial equity? >

A need for more diverse admissions and counseling staff

Higher education professionals, particularly those in counseling and admissions, do not mirror the demographic characteristics of their student populations, NACAC finds. Forty-eight percent of undergraduates and 47% of public high school students are white. In contrast, 71% of college admissions counselors, 81% of chief admissions officers, 82% of chief enrollment officers, and 86% of higher education administrators overall are white.

In focus groups, admissions professionals told NACAC that some institutions have hired specialists to diversify their student bodies, but those efforts have not yet extended to the recruitment of staff and leaders in admissions and counseling departments. The focus groups also noted there is a lack of men of color—and especially Black males—in college counseling and admissions, according to Higher Ed Dive.

“We have not created a pipeline in the profession” for staff from underrepresented backgrounds, Angel Perez, CEO of NACAC, tells Inside Higher Ed. Few students of color start their careers in enrollment management or admissions. Additionally, the pandemic and the “great resignation” have exacerbated staffing and recruitment challenges.

Focus group participants suggested that, to attract a more diverse applicant pool, colleges and universities should diversify hiring committees, make job listings visible to underserved communities, and expand diverse hiring initiatives with mentoring components. Having role models on staff and accessible supportive services could further aid in recruiting and retaining a more diverse workforce.

Increased DEI-related trainings

Hiring a more representative staff is not enough, the report explains. Student-facing staff also should be trained in DEI concepts to better understand and support students from underrepresented backgrounds. NACAC found, however, that “only a handful” of focus group participants’ counseling and admissions departments implemented DEI practices.

Generally, few institutions have made DEI training mandatory. As a result, the report explains, the staff who need the training the most are the “least likely to show up.” Admissions professionals also reported witnessing institutional resistance to DEI training and said that, at some colleges, institutional statements in support of DEI practices were not followed by action.

To address these challenges, NACAC calls on colleges and universities to emphasize the importance of DEI training so that staff are aware of the barriers faced by historically underserved populations and consider students’ individual needs and societal circumstances when making policy and admission decisions.

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