Closing Higher Education’s Equity and Achievement Gaps

Posted by Inside Higher Ed on July 20, 2021

Disparities in higher education equity have some of the biggest impacts on students’ abilities to succeed, but with so many sources of disparity, traditional approaches need to be reconsidered in favor of more holistic and personalized approaches.

Inequalities exist in every facet of higher education. In terms of per-student spending on instruction and support, cost after financial aid, retention and graduation rates, and access to high-demand majors and admission to the most selective, well-resourced campuses, American colleges and universities are among this nation’s most stratified institutions.

But of all of higher education’s disparities, among the greatest has its roots in differences in students’ preparation for college. Some students, many admissions officers and faculty members believe, are simply more college ready. They have richer vocabularies, greater cultural literacy and more fluent writing skills. Their preparation for demanding coursework in math, chemistry and physics is much more advanced.

This is undoubtably true. But this doesn’t mean that they’re smarter or possess greater academic potential. Nor does this imply that their insights are more acute or their intellectual contributions superior. Rather, they’re rounding third base while their less well-prepared counterparts struggle to reach first.

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