The recent nomination and confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor as a U.S. Supreme Court Justice refocused public attention on the selection criteria that colleges and universities use to admit students. For decades the Supreme Court has repeatedly been asked to decide the constitutionality of racial and ethnic preferences in college admissions.
However, this preoccupation with admissions neglects other important considerations in achieving campus diversity and narrowing gaps in educational attainment. What circumstances motivate students to attend and succeed in college? What factors influence individual students' decisions whether to apply and, if admitted, whether to enroll.
Based on administrative data from the Texas Higher Education Opportunity Project (THEOP), recent studies have revealed these key insights:
· The high schools that students attend are highly decisive for predicting which students pursue postsecondary education.
· Application behavior (rather than admissions criteria) holds the key to diversification of college campuses along socioeconomic, geographic, and demographic lines.
· Campus diversity is an interim goal for the broader vision of opening the pathways to leadership.
The compelling articles in this volume of The ANNALS go beyond the worn argument that admission criteria are solely responsible for determining campus diversity. The authors address a broad range of questions in college decision making – from application to enrollment, college performance, and graduation.
The first section of this volume reviews the precursors to college attendance as the first step to campus diversification. The authors discuss the importance of a college habitus. Articles also focus on the strong association between the ethno-racial composition of high schools and first-college preference.
Along with key articles on narrowing the gender and ethnic gaps in specific fields of study, academic performance, and graduation rates, this volume also includes an analysis of the consequences of Texas's Top Ten Percent Law guaranteeing admission to any Texas public university for high school seniors who graduated in the top decile of their high school class.
This forward-looking volume of The ANNALS is a requisite for students and scholars who want to examine alternatives that narrow ethnic gaps throughout the postsecondary cycle and provide more opportunities for talented, ambitious youth from disadvantaged environments to succeed, as Justice Sotomayor did.