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State Colleges Encourage Diversity, Link Efforts
with Academic Goals

Below are illustrations of how commitments to diversity and academic objectives function in tandem at the nine state colleges and universities

The College of New Jersey has a long-standing commitment to diversity that includes active recruiting of students in secondary schools in low-income and urban areas across the state.  This work has helped to generate a robust applicant pool that is also socioeconomically and racially diverse.

TCNJ boasts the highest graduation rate for racial and ethnic minorities and first-generation students in the entire New Jersey public higher education sector.  To help students complete degrees on a timely basis, the institution invests, with the support of its foundation, millions of dollars in two grant programs of its own:  The TCNJ Promise Award and the Chairman of the Board Scholarship.

The commitment to diversity is also exemplified in employment results on the campus:  38% of new hires this year were minority and 38% female.

Kean University’s administration believes that exposure to diverse perspectives enhances the educational experience for all concerned.  Kean takes pride in the richly varied backgrounds and its diverse faculty and student body.  The University has been recognized nationally for these efforts; DiversityInc magazine recently named Kean University one of the top five diverse universities in the country.

Montclair State University partners with the KIPP Foundation, an organization dedicated to helping students from educationally underserved communities, to develop the knowledge, skills, character and habits needed to succeed in college and the competitive world beyond.

Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education has placed the university on its list of Top 100 Colleges for Hispanics for 14 years in a row, in 2012 awarding it the highest rank among New Jersey institutions.

In 2012, the magazine Diverse Issues in Higher Education named Montclair State a “Top Degree Producer” for conferring the most degrees upon minority students.

New Jersey City University has an extremely diverse community.  Six out of ten students, one in three faculty members, and nearly two-thirds of all staff members are minority group members.  International students hail from 23 nations.  This makes NJCU an ideal partner with nearby Ellis Island National Monument and Archives as part of the University’s Campus Without Borders initiative, enabling exploration of issues related to the immigrant experience.

NJCU is also involved in a National Science Foundation STEM initiative that encourages students from all races and ethnic groups to pursue studies and academic majors in the sciences, including computer science, and mathematics.  This dovetails with Proyecto Science, an NJCU summer enrichment program for middle and high school students from the area that aims to increase the number of female students seeking careers in science.

Ramapo College is committed to maintaining strength and opportunity through diversity of age, race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and economic background among faculty, staff, and students.  Ramapo College is a selective institution committed to providing equal access to underrepresented populations.  Barrier-free, the college maintains a continuing commitment to persons with disabilities.  The college understands that the diversity of its staff, faculty and students enriches the learning experience for all and encourages people to expand their perceptions, values and thinking.

Richard Stockton College of New Jersey has an active Committee for Equity, Diversity and Affirmative Action.  One of its products is a booklet of activities for use in classrooms and offices to explore differences and likenesses within human communities.  Seminars are provided to the entire Stockton community covering issues that include dealing with discrimination, hostile work environment, and harassment through the Office of Affirmative Action/Ethical Standards and the Office of General Counsel.

The Stockton commitment to diversity is reflected in a 60% female and 25% minority population.  The faculty is similarly diverse:  51% of members are female and 26% are minority.

Rowan University has a long-standing commitment to diversity on campus that begins with the recruitment process and continues until students graduate.  Rowan’s Maximizing Academic Potential Program (M.A.P.) is unique among ASCU institutions and allows access by students who do not qualify for admissions using traditional evaluation methods.  Over its 25-year history, the M.A.P. program has provided access for over 1,250 students.

In 2011, Rowan established the Achieving the Dream program, which provides access, scholarships, supplemental advising and academic support to students who are first-generation college students and graduates of high schools in special-needs districts.  The establishment of the Rowan University Division of Enrollment Management, and the new program and financial commitment made by the president and the university’s board of trustees, has allowed Rowan to increase the diversity of the freshman class 32% in the last two years.

Thomas Edison State College is working to increase minority representation in the nursing profession.  Its W. Cary Edwards School of Nursing manages the country’s first free online database of minority nurse educators who have been trained in online teaching and who are available to teach online nursing courses at colleges and universities throughout the country.  Open to nursing schools throughout the country, it is the result of a grant to the college from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration.  That grant (2006-2011) launched the Diversity in Nursing program, which recruited and prepared minority nurse educators with online pedagogical skills.  Today, the program is offered nationwide to minority nurse educators interested in teaching online nursing courses at U.S. higher education institutions.

William Paterson University’s faculty and students are among the most diverse in New Jersey: in 2012, more than 40% of enrolled students were minority group members.  Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education has placed the University on its list of Top 100 Colleges and Universities for 4-Year, Full-Time Undergraduate and Graduate Enrollment.  In 2013, the magazine Diverse Issues in Higher Education named William Paterson University one of its Top 100 Degree Producers for conferring the most undergraduate degrees on minority students.  In addition, William Paterson University’s College of Education received a Best Practices Award in Support of Global Diversity from the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education in recognition of the integration of diversity awareness into its teacher education programs.  The University’s long-standing commitment to diversity was recently reaffirmed in the mission, vision, and core values adopted by its board of trustees in March 2012.n

New Jersey’s Educational Opportunity Fund:

A Program Based on Factors Other Than Race


While college and university leaders in many states are considering how best to lawfully ensure access to college by all groups and a diverse student body, New Jersey established such a path to college opportunity 45 years ago:  the Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF).  The program bypasses the matter of race and focuses specifically on disadvantage.

The fund was created in 1968 and its prime sponsor was freshman legislator and future Governor  Thomas H. Kean, then a member of the New Jersey General Assembly.  At the time, the state was experiencing significant racial tension as well as an assertive civil rights movement that was urging that progress be made in employment, education, housing and fairer treatment of African-Americans and other disadvantaged groups by law enforcement and the criminal justice system.  In the wake of civil unrest in Newark and other New Jersey locations, Higher Education Chancellor Ralph Dungan outlined and shared with college presidents the basic elements of a college opportunity program focused on providing opportunity to all disadvantaged state students.  Subsequently, then-Governor Richard Hughes supported this and other programs addressing the conditions which caused racial unrest.  The program was then enacted by the New Jersey Legislature.

The EOF program provides disadvantaged students with several kinds of help:  grants (which do not have to be paid back) and support services, including basic skills testing, counseling, tutoring, remedial education and developmental course work.  Of particular note is the fact that eligibility is not based on race or ethnicity, but instead on various other indicators of economic or educational disadvantage, some of which are determined by each institution’s EOF program.  Those indicators may include:  residence in what is considered a “labor surplus area” or an “eligible urban aid municipality;” having a sibling who is enrolled in an EOF program; or being a first-generation college student who is, or whose family is, eligible for government assistance and/or educational programs targeted towards low-income and disadvantaged populations.

As for which cities and towns in the state are characterized as disadvantaged, EOF program officials have resources enumerating them.  While there is some overlap in municipalities on these lists, there are differences.  For example, some towns may qualify as “eligible urban aid municipalities,” but may not be labor surplus areas.

Other key criteria for student eligibility for EOF funds and services include:  New Jersey residence; the ability to meet a particular institution’s minimum academic standards; a completed FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid); and evidence that the student’s family income is within certain parameters (the scale is keyed to family size and is adjusted annually).

Twenty-eight public and thirteen independent colleges and universities participate in the Educational Opportunity Fund program.

To help disadvantaged students deal with the high costs of higher education, the program offers undergraduates grants ranging from $200 to $2,500 per year at the state colleges and universities currently, and grants from $200 to $4,350 per year for graduate students.  The State support for EOF in FY 2014 totals of $38.8 million.

Although participation is not limited to minority students, it appears that the typical EOF participant is likely to be African-American or Latino.

It may benefit other states to look to New Jersey’s EOF program for ideas on how to fulfill the opportunity agenda at a time when the courts are asking institutions to concentrate on opportunity-related factors other than racial and ethnic identity and when many of today’s students are disinclined to identify with one racial group.

Sources:  New Jersey Higher Education website www.state.nj/highereducation/EOF for document on Historical Poverty Resources; history of the NJEOF is found at www.drew.eos/history and at http://www.nj.gov/highereducation/EOF/EOF_History.htm.  Additional feedback and updates were provided by New Jersey EOF Director, Dr. Glenn Lang. n


Policy Outlook

Committed to College Opportunity for NJ Citizens


Michael W. Klein, Executive Editor

Paul R. Shelly, Editor-in-Chief

Charlene R. Pipher, Associate Editor


NJASCU Member Institutions:

The College of New Jersey

Kean University

Montclair State University

New Jersey City University

Ramapo College of New Jersey

Richard Stockton College of New Jersey

Rowan University

Thomas Edison State College

William Paterson University


New Jersey Association of State Colleges and Universities

150 West State Street

Trenton, New Jersey 08608



State Colleges and Universities—

More Diverse Than Ever


New Jersey’s state colleges and universities have long been vehicles for the educational advancement of those whose race or gender hindered their participation in other types of American higher education institutions.  This role dates back to the time when those institutions in existence served solely as teaching training institutions, called “normal schools.”  (Editor’s Note:  “normal” in this usage meant that they aspired to set the standard for teacher performance.)

According to IPEDS reports for Fall 2012 from the nine ASCU-member institutions, approximately 36% of undergraduate students indicated that they are a member of a racial/ethnic minority group or more than one racial/ethnic minority group.  Another 8% of students chose not to indicate racial/ethnic identification.  Compare that to 10 years earlier when minority students composed about 28% of enrolled undergraduate students, and fifteen years earlier when about 22% of all undergraduates were minority students.

Today, depending on the institution, 25% to 70% of first-time, full-time students are members of minority groups.

In this issue of Policy Outlook, we have provided examples from each of the campuses of how they are supporting a diverse student body and leveraging that diversity to enhance the educational experience of all students. n


State College and University

Undergraduate Enrollment

(Fall 2012)


White/Caucasian                          55%

Hispanic                                          16%

Black (African-American)           12%

Asian/Pacific Islander                   6%

Race Unspecified                             8%

Foreign                                            1.1%

Two or more races                       1.7%

Native American                           0.2%


These figures are approximate for a number of reasons.  Among them: racial/ethnic categories have always included a “foreign student” option which indicates neither race nor ethnicity.  As seen in the breakdown, many students today decline to specify racial/ethnic identification.  The combination of race and ethnicity into a single category also makes precise calculations difficult.


Colorado Study May Offer Answers to Opportunity Challenges


According to a study published this summer in the Harvard Law and Policy Review, an experimental approach to affirmative action in admissions undertaken by the University of Colorado-Boulder may result in more spots for underrepresented minority students.  Some are calling the new approach, which does not consider race, a [socioeconomic] “class-based system.”

Described in a May 15 article in Inside Higher Education, the Colorado institution’s methodology establishes two dimensions for “additional consideration” of applicants.  One dimension is based on socioeconomic disadvantage, composed of three categories:  no disadvantage, moderate disadvantage, and severe disadvantage.  The other dimension, called “overachievement,” is based on the expected academic performance of those in the applicant’s particular socioeconomic group, also composed of three categories:  no overachievement, high overachievement, and extraordinary overachievement.

Under this system, severely disadvantaged students, extraordinary overachievers from all economic groups, and high achievers from moderately disadvantaged groups all receive a “primary boost” in consideration for admissions.  Secondary boosts are given to average achievers (for their socioeconomic group) from moderate disadvantage, and to high achievers with no economic disadvantage.

The findings of the study are promising.  In a 2009 comparison of approaches, the acceptance rate of underrepresented minority students was greater under the “class-based” system than under the race-based system:  65% and 56%, respectively.

The study’s authors, Matthew N. Gaertner and Melissa Hart, affirm their support for the educational value of a diverse student body.  In the Inside Higher Education article, Dr. Gaertner also pointed out that admissions decision-making is only part of ensuring a diverse student body; outreach, recruitment, financial aid and academic support are also significant factors.

This study and others may result in greater support for approaches that not only achieve the desired results of affirmative action and are legally defensible, but which are more focused on academic achievement.




Supreme Court Decision Calls for Fine-Tuning Consideration of Race in Admissions


New Jersey state colleges and universities provide an opportunity for an affordable higher education to New Jersey’s residents, and they are committed to the principle that a diverse student body provides educational benefits.  The U.S. Supreme Court upheld this precept in its decision in Fisher vs. University of Texas, announced June 24, 2013.  Abigail Fisher sued the University of Texas at Austin after her application for admission in 2008 was rejected.  Ms. Fisher contended that the university’s admissions process violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because the admissions process considers an applicant’s race among the criteria for admission.

The Court held that a university “must prove that the means chosen by the University to attain diversity are narrowly tailored to that goal” (No. 11-345, slip op. at 10, U.S. Supreme Court, June 24, 2013).  Under this level of review, called “strict scrutiny,” courts inquire “whether a university could achieve sufficient diversity without using racial classifications” (No. 11-345, slip op. at 10).  The key sentence in the Fisher case states:  “The reviewing court must ultimately be satisfied that no workable race-neutral alternatives would produce the educational benefits of diversity” (No. 11-345, slip op. at 11).

Because the lower courts did not perform this “strict scrutiny” review in Fisher, the Supreme Court remanded the case back to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and required the Court of Appeals to assess whether the University of Texas sufficiently proved that its admissions process is narrowly tailored to obtain the educational benefits of diversity (No. 11-345, slip op. at 12-13).

While the Fifth Circuit conducts this analysis, the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to reconsider affirmative action once again this fall.  The Court has agreed to hear a case that challenges the constitutionality of a referendum passed by voters in Michigan in 2006 prohibiting public colleges and universities from considering race or gender in their admission decisions.  Under the referendum, language was added to Michigan’s constitution that bans publicly funded colleges and universities from granting “preferential treatment to any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin.” (Since 1996, voters in five other states passed referenda to prohibit public institutions of higher education from considering race in admissions:  Arizona, California, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Washington.) The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in November 2012 that Michigan’s affirmative-action ban violates equal-protection laws.  The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the case, Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration, and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality by Any Means Necessary, is likely to be announced next June after oral arguments some time during the term that begins this October.

Regardless of the Court’s decision, providing an affordable, accessible college education will remain an urgent priority for our national and state economies and the long-term vibrancy of our democracy.  In New Jersey, the state colleges and universities awarded 18,511 bachelor’s degree—45% of the state’s total—in 2012.  Having a bachelor’s degree will become even more important here over the next five years.  By that time, New Jersey’s workforce will have a higher proportion of jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree than any other state except Massachusetts, according to projections by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce.

This issue of Policy Outlook includes articles that describe how New Jersey’s state colleges and universities are extending the opportunity to attain an undergraduate degree to a large and diverse portion of the residents of our state.  In addition, we have included an outline prepared by Barbara Berreski, our director of government and legal affairs, suggesting practical steps for institutions that are seeking to assure compliance with Fisher, excerpted from a seminar offered by the National Association of College & University Attorneys. n

Practical Steps for Institutions in Response to Fisher


Brief Legal Background

U.S. Supreme Court cases involving the University of Michigan in 2003, Gratz and Grutter: Racial classifications are constitutional only if they are narrowly tailored to further compelling governmental interests.  The Court found that obtaining the educational benefits of student body diversity is a compelling state interest that can justify the use of race in university admissions.

Fisher:  The Court held that an institution can only use race if a clear precondition is met:  that whatever process is used for this objective must be able to withstand strict scrutiny by the judiciary.  Judicial review must begin from the position that any official action that treats a person differently on account of race or ethnicity is inherently suspect.

Strict Scrutiny:  There are two prongs to strict scrutiny.  First, the institution must define the compelling interest in diversity’s benefits; and second, the institution must show that the specific plan used is narrowly tailored to achieve its stated goal. 

What Institutions Can Do to Withstand Strict Scrutiny

(Summary of NACUA Webinar, July 19, 2013 – Presented by Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean and Professor of Law, University of California-Irvine School of Law; Jamie Lewis Keith, VP and General Counsel, University of Florida; and Leonard Niehoff, Professor of Law, University of Michigan Law School)

Strict Scrutiny Prong #1—Compelling Interest

¨ What is the Institution’s Mission-Tied Compelling Interest?

à Define your mission and strongly express the importance of diversity to achieve it, then document it

à Define your mission as broadly as possible while recognizing the role of higher education in society.  For example:

· Provide access to and deliver excellent education

· Create and disseminate knowledge/research/innovation that meets the needs of a diverse society

· Prepare all students to be citizens/workers/leaders in a diverse society

· Strengthen national security/US democracy

¨ Why is Diversity Needed to Achieve the Mission-Tied Compelling Interest?

à Articulate the need for broad diversity including but not limited to race

· Why and what kind of diversity is needed?

* Why diversity is needed: What academic and co-curricular environment is most conducive to learning and other mission-tied goals? What experiences do all students need to be prepared in the 21st century?

* What kind of diversity is needed: As a policy matter, what is the breadth of diversity needed? 

¨ Provide Evidence of Need for Diversity

à Ask trustees, faculty, students and alumni to opine on the need for diversity

à Articulate need for and commitment to diversity in mission statement, trustee resolution, faculty senate report, strategic plan, and/or performance goals for president

à Assess whether the racial aspect of broad diversity that is needed for desired educational outcomes has been achieved

· How do you know?

· Are there any gaps in particular disciplines or settings?

à Is there adequate representation of minorities and other under-served groups

· Survey trustees, faculty, students, administration, alumni

* Assess the following: Do minorities feel isolated and marginalized? Are they less informed than most about resources for success? Do all students have experiences working/living with a broad diversity of people? Do stereotypes persist?


Strict Scrutiny Prong #2—Narrow Tailoring

¨ Must Demonstrate the Need to Use Race and Its Effectiveness

à If race-neutral criteria/strategies, like outreach, barrier removal, etc., alone or in combination with a lesser use of race, would achieve the mission-tied diversity goals, then use of race is probably not narrowly tailored or legally sustainable

· Moreover, if there is a race-conscious strategy in place which has had little positive impact, then that also is unlikely to survive a legal challenge

à The burden is on the institution to demonstrate that neutral strategies are not enough and that the use of race is necessary

à Any race-conscious strategy, even if shown to be necessary, cannot be unduly burdensome on non-minorities

à Institution must seriously consider and use “workable” neutral strategies

· Not any conceivable option, just workable ones

¨ Possible Neutral Strategies

à Robust general outreach and targeted minority outreach

à Use an individual’s record of/commitment to inclusive conduct as a plus factor, regardless of their race or minority status

à Use low socioeconomic family background as a plus factor

à Use diverse ZIP codes as a plus factor, regardless of race of the individual

à Use race to define the subjects of programs aimed at attracting applicants with interest in race issues, without restricting participants in the programs

à Pool funds that have no race restrictions with limited funds that do have race restrictions

à Inventory and cluster capacity-building programs offering similar benefits and having similar selection criteria apart from race, to eliminate or limit stand-alone race conscious or exclusive programs

à Open pathways through educational collaborations and recruitment consortia between various institutions

à Provide community-building opportunities for isolated, less informed minorities as a barrier removal

¨ Document the Neutral Alternatives Which Were Seriously Considered, Those Which Were Used, and Why Others Are Not “Workable”

à Collect data on the diversity-enhancing effect of neutral alternatives and also any gaps remaining

à Document the combination of, and progression of, various approaches

¨ If Neutral Approaches Are Inadequate, Document The Use of Race

à That it is used in as limited a fashion as possible

à That it is periodically reviewed

à That it has a positive impact but is not unduly burdensome to non-minorities

à Conduct multi-variable regression analyses to show race-based need