- Governor Maura Healey and Lt. Governor Kim Driscoll
- Office of the Attorney General
- Executive Office of Education
Media Contact for Governor Healey and Attorney General Campbell Issues Joint Guidance to Affirm and Strengthen Equity Efforts in Higher Education, K-12 Schools
Karissa Hand, Press Secretary
Boston — In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision on affirmative action in higher education, Governor Maura T. Healey and Attorney General Andrea Joy Campbell have issued joint guidance to support the Commonwealth’s higher education and K-12 institutions in their work to further equal access and representation in post-secondary education in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on race-conscious admissions. AG Campbell and Governor Healey announced the new guidance earlier today when speaking to K-12 and higher education leaders and school admissions and counseling staff at a statewide convening at UMass Boston.
The joint guidance, which builds on recommendations released by the Biden Administration in August and September, emphasizes the importance of improving student pathways from high school to college. It focuses on steps institutions of higher education can continue to take to break down barriers and enhance access for historically underrepresented students in higher education. It also includes ways that colleges and universities can work with K-12 schools and steps elementary and secondary schools should take to foster a safe and supportive environment and ensure equal opportunity for all students in preparation for college and career.
“Our administration is proud to be partnering with Attorney General Campbell and her team to advance guidance to help schools, colleges and universities create equitable access to education. No Supreme Court ruling can change the fact that educators, counselors, and leaders in schools from kindergarten all the way through college can expand pathways for students from underrepresented background to pursue higher education,” said Governor Maura Healey. “Together, we will ensure that all students – including students of color, LGBTQ+ students, first generation students – have access to and feel welcomed and valued at our colleges and universities.”
“I am grateful to be partnering with the Governor and her administration to issue this guidance which provides specific details on how our higher education institutions can continue to legally remove barriers to access, and how our K-12 systems can strengthen their ongoing efforts to provide a safe, high quality academic and supportive environment for all students,” said AG Campbell. “My office will use every tool available to support these efforts because we understand the tremendous value that diversity brings, and the ongoing reality of the racial inequities that exist in this country and Massachusetts.”
“The guidelines we are releasing today strengthen the commitments to educational equity that we’ve made through our historic FY24 budget, which supported programs like Early College and made higher education affordable for more learners across Massachusetts,” said Lieutenant Governor Driscoll. “By collaborating with our K-12 schools and higher education leaders, we will continue to break down barriers to higher education so that all students see themselves represented in both our campus communities.”
The statewide convening grew out of the Advisory Council for the Advancement of Representation in Education that Governor Healey launched this June in anticipation of the Supreme Court’s ruling on race-conscious admissions and was organized in collaboration with the Office of the Attorney General, Executive Office of Education, Department of Higher Education and Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. At the convening, attendees from K-12 schools and colleges took part in panel discussions and breakout sessions about increasing educational equity with a focus on strengthening K-12 to college pathways in their region.
“I’m thrilled that the Advisory Council on Advancing Representation in Education has already led to such fruitful discussion between our admissions counselors and folks in the higher education space and our K-12 administrators and educators. The work that occurred in today’s statewide convening, guided by the strong guidance from our administration and the attorney general’s office, will be critical to build off of as we strive to ensure every Massachusetts student, regardless of background, can access the higher education or career they dream of,” said Secretary of Education Patrick Tutwiler.
In June, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President and Fellows of Harvard College and Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. the University of North Carolina ruling that the race-conscious admissions systems used by UNC and Harvard violated federal law. The decision limits the ability of higher education institutions to consider an applicants’ race in and of itself as a factor in deciding whether to admit the applicant.
Today’s guidance is meant to affirm that even in the face of the Supreme Court’s decision, there are approaches consistent with the decision that higher education institutions can and should adopt to advance diversity, break down barriers, and increase access for historically underrepresented groups. These approaches include:
Institutions may use admissions criteria that look beyond traditional measures such as grades to more holistic ones that allow for consideration of applicants’ life experiences more generally, including their experiences linked to their race and how those experiences shaped their lives and the unique contributions they can make to campus.
Institutions may choose to audit their existing admissions processes, practices, and criteria to identify potential barriers to access for historically underrepresented students and use the Court’s decision as an opportunity to retool operations in ways that better align with their institutional mission. More specifically, institutions can reconsider and recalibrate criteria that have generally created barriers for certain student groups, such as application fees, early admissions plans, legacy preferences, testing requirements, athletic preferences, curricular requirements, and grade thresholds.
Institutions may continue to collect data based on race and ethnicity, and other aspects of identity, but institutions may not provide an advantage to an individual applicant solely and specifically on the basis of the data collected about their race.
Institutions may make specific efforts to reach particular groups as part of a comprehensive approach to conducting outreach to potential applicants. Additionally, institutions may continue to target outreach to potential applicants based on a wide range of characteristics and expand outreach by increasing the number and types of high school and organization visits during the recruiting season.
Institutions may continue to make every effort to recruit and support transfer students, including learners from the Massachusetts community colleges.
Institutions may engage in practices that develop robust relationships with middle schools and high schools, with particular emphasis on those schools with historically low college-going rates.
Additionally, the guidance affirms that K-12 administrators, teachers, counselors and staff should be confident that they may continue to carry out the vitally important work of preparing all students for college and career in a safe and supportive school environment. This may mean taking targeted action so that students from underserved communities, including communities of color, are aware of, have access to, and can participate in these courses and programs. To do this, it is imperative K-12 schools continue to provide all students with access to the course work, instruction, enrichment opportunities, counseling, and other preparatory program, such as:
My Career and Academic Plan (MyCap), a student-centered holistic, multi-year planning tool designed to provide middle and high school students with ongoing opportunities to plan for their academic, personal/social and career success in high school and beyond;
Making available online college and career planning resources, that can help students and their families successfully navigate the college application and selection process, empowering them to envision the future that they deserve;
Providing comprehensive counseling and coursework that prepares students for post-secondary education;
Early College programs, which provide students with the opportunity to take college courses and earn credits at no cost before they graduate high school;
Innovation Career Pathways program which provides workforce learning options to high school students, including learning opportunities in Advanced Manufacturing, Information Technology, Environmental and Life Sciences, Health Care and Social Assistance, Business and Finance, and Clean Energy;
Expanding access to Advanced Placement (AP), dual enrollment, and other advanced course work during high school; specifically for the expansion of AP courses taking advantage of DESE’s commitment to provide AP exam fee subsidies for all low-income public school students; and
Providing students a rigorous high school course of study such as MassCore which aligns with college admissions standards.
K-12 schools should continue to take affirmative steps to create and maintain a positive school climate where all students feel safe, supported, respected and ready to learn. This includes reviewing current practices to ensure they comply with all applicable anti-discrimination, anti-bullying and civil rights laws.
The Attorney General’s Office offers best practices to help administrators, teachers and school staff meet their obligations and address bias, hate and prejudice in K-12 schools.
A copy of today’s guidance is available, here.