A Welcome College Diversity Push

A Welcome College Diversity Push

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First, Time magazine named “the silence breakers” — the women speaking out against sexual harassment and assault — as 2017’s Person of the Year. It’s an excellent choice. Decades from now, I expect we will look back on this year as a turning point on this issue. And unlike many potential 2017 turning points, this one is welcome.

Still, don’t forget the terrible price many women pay for speaking up: “Nearly all of the people Time interviewed about their experiences expressed a crushing fear of what would happen to them personally, to their families or to their jobs if they spoke up.”

Related: Lauren Greene, a former staff member to Blake Farenthold, a Texas congressman, has suffered both personally and professionally after accusing Farenthold of sexual harassment. Rachael Bade of Politico reported the details this week, and they’re worth reading.

In The Times, Thomas Chatterton Williams writes that too many women — often poor and of color — are prevented from telling their stories of harassment and assault.

Unfairness in higher ed. This country’s colleges are not the meritocracies they claim to be. Top public and private colleges — as measured by resources, graduation rates or just about anything else — still disproportionately enroll affluent students. The colleges do so even though many highly qualified low- and middle-income students exist, as I’ve written before.

At long last, however, there is now a pretty serious push to make colleges more economically diverse. Part of that push is called the American Talent Initiative, backed by Michael Bloomberg, and this morning it’s announcing a significant expansion.

Eighteen more colleges have joined the initiative, bringing the total to 86. Together, they are pledging to increase the number of lower-income students at top colleges by 50,000 (or more than 10 percent) by 2025.

The new members include the University of Delaware, Haverford, Case Western and five University of California campuses. I was pleased to see both the University of Wisconsin (one of the country’s least economically diverse public universities) and Washington & Lee University (one of the least diverse private colleges) on the list. Existing members of the initiative include 12 flagship state universities, the entire Ivy League, Stanford, Caltech and N.Y.U.

As part of the announcement, six colleges also publicly announced their own goals for increasing diversity — which matters, because it means they can be held accountable.

Elizabethtown College, in central Pennsylvania, plans to enroll more transfer students, especially from local community colleges. “We don’t get as many transfers from them as we should,” Carl Strikwerda, Elizabethtown’s president, told me.

The University of Washington, in Seattle, has vowed to reduce the gap in its six-year graduation rate for low-income students (79 percent) and other students (82 percent). Ana Mari Cauce, the university president, pointed out that changes at public colleges are especially important because of their large size. “We do things at scale,” she said.

Unfortunately, many public colleges have become less economically diverse in recent years, because state legislators have cut their budgets. It’s terribly counterproductive, given the large economic returns that education has for both individuals and society. (If you doubt that last point, I encourage you to read more on the topic.)

But stingy legislators aren’t the only problem. College leaders also have failed to live up to their own rhetoric on this issue. I hope that is starting to change.

Jerusalem. Shmuel Rosner makes the case for President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The Times editorial board and Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian lawmaker, separately make the case against.

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