The past year of racial unrest has been
heartbreaking, historic, and transformational for many. Most
importantly, it has come with real accountability for politicians,
government institutions, corporations, and sports, including meaningful
police reform, removal of racist monuments, symbols, and corporate
branding. These changes are only just the beginning.
Higher education as an industry will not be spared. As we all know,
in spite of the promise that a postsecondary education offers, the
history of higher education in this country is inextricably entangled
with white supremacy. At Common App, we've turned a mirror/equity lens
on ourselves and our practices, recognized how we have contributed to
the current state of affairs, and realized we have an important role to
play going forward.
During the past few years, Common App has taken several concrete
steps to even the playing field for students historically
underrepresented in postsecondary education. In 2019, we removed the
criminal history question from the common portion of the application. In
2020, we made the decision to remove the school discipline question and
to remove and/or revise dozens of questions that were related to an
applicant’s immigration status. Most recently, we are actively
recruiting more minority-serving institutions to join Common App and are
working to ensure that our services meet their unique needs.
Nonetheless, most of the work remains to be done. Today, just 9
percent of students from the lowest income quartile have earned a
bachelor’s degree by age 24. Forty percent of first-time, full-time
students who enroll in a bachelor’s degree program do not graduate
within six years. Only 9 percent of the most selective public
universities in the US enroll a Black student population that is
comparable to their states’ Black population. This moment of reckoning
around our country’s legacy on discrimination, compounded by the effects
of COVID-19, has revealed that higher education, specifically college
access and completion, is failing on its promise.
This moment demands a revolution and not merely incremental
improvement. In response, Common App has launched an initiative called
Revolutionizing the App, our effort to eliminate the vestiges of
systemic racism embedded within the college admission process.
Our equity-focused, next-generation application will be
student-centered. We’re exploring solutions and forming an overarching
vision that: (1 takes into account student preferences and behavior; (2
creates an experience that is joyful, inclusive, and encourages
application submission; and (3 includes more equitable ways to measure
cognitive and non-cognitive skills. Throughout this process, we’ll be
working hand-in-hand with NACAC’s Commission on Redesigning College
Admission and Financial Aid through a Racial Equity Lens, counselors,
postsecondary institutions, and, most importantly, students.
If you have ideas about how we can revolutionize college admission, please email me at email@example.com or NACAC at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you.
Don Yu is the chief operating officer and senior
director of equity and access at Reach Higher at the Common Application
(VA) and a NACAC board director.