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ACE report urges nontraditional admissions criteria – American Council on Education


When it comes to admissions practices, the status quo
has got to go. That was the core message of the American Council on
Education’s (ACE) latest status report highlighting progress in the
growth of minority students and faculty on American campuses.

Released on September 22, ACE’s sixteenth annual “Status Report on
Minorities in Higher Education” urges colleges and universities to
begin using nontraditional assessment measures to increase the number
of minority students admitted to higher education institutions.

The report makes a detailed examination — by race and ethnicity —
of high school completion and dropout rates, and trends in college
participation, educational attainment, college enrollment, degrees
conferred, and higher education employment.

“The year’s annual status report reveals that we continue to make
[progress] in expanding access and educational opportunities to all
students. It also shows, however, that important changes still remain,”
said Dr. Stanley O. Ikenberry, president of ACE.

This year’s report emphasizes that attacks on affirmative action
demonstrate the need for ACE’s sustained commitment to monitoring the
progress of minorities in higher education.

“[E]fforts to dismantle affirmative action underscore the important
role of this report in providing educators with annual information
about access to — and progress within — higher education for African
Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans, and American Indians. These
trends illustrate the need for closer monitoring of trends in college
participation, enrollment, and degree attainment among underrepresented
groups,” the report says.

The ACE report reveals that “students of color have experienced
steady increases in college enrollment since the mid-1980s, but that
the rate of growth has slowed in recent years.”

The enrollment rate for students of color increased by 3.2 percent
between 1995 and 1996, slightly higher than the 2.9-percent increase
between 1994 and 1995. However, the 1995-96 gain fell short of the
gains between 1993 and 1994 with its 4.6-percent increase, and between
1991 and 1992 with its increase of 7.1 percent, according to the report.

For faculty of color, the report also documented a measure of
progress. The number of full-time minority faculty rose by 6.9 percent
from 1993 to 1995. Among full professors — who represent the elite of
the professoriate — the number of minority faculty increased by 6.7
percent while the White rate stayed roughly the same. Each of the four
major ethnic minority groups had moderate gains in the ranks of full
professors from 1993 to 1995, but minority faculty members achieved
their most significant progress at the associate and assistant
professor levels, according to the report.

African Americans, however, continue to have the lowest tenure rate
among the four ethnic minority groups. Tenure rates for Black faculty
fell slightly, from 61 percent in 1993 to 59 percent in 1995.

The special focus section on using nontraditional assessment
measures in college admissions was prepared by Dr. William E. Sedlacek,
professor of education and director of testing at the University of
Maryland. The section examines the use of cognitive and noncognitive
assessment variables in college admissions.

Cognitive variables — such as quantitative and verbal skills —
are measured by standardized test scores and grades. Noncognitive
variables — such as self-esteem and leadership skills — include a
student’s perceptions, motivation, and adaptability. These skills are
not evaluated by traditional assessment techniques.

Sedlacek says that research has demonstrated that noncognitive
variables can shed insight into an individual’s ability to succeed in
postsecondary programs, especially for women and students of color. The
report argues that consideration of noncognitive variables in admission
decisions likely would increase the numbers of ethnic minority students
admitted to higher education institutions.

“Higher education institutions have a greater societal
responsibility than to simply admit students who have the highest test
scores and grades. Given the growing diversity of the U.S. population,
postsecondary institutions must do a better job of educating the
nation’s diverse citizenry,” Sedlacek says in the report.

COPYRIGHT 1998 Cox, Matthews & Associates

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