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Missouri public universities say their undergraduate admissions never used affirmative action

University of Missouri
University of Missouri

A June ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, overturning decades of precedent, decreed that colleges can’t consider race when deciding if to admit a student. Missouri university system leaders told state lawmakers that the decision has "no impact" on them because race was not a factor in admissions already.

Missouri’s public universities told state lawmakers Thursday that a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling ending affirmative action won’t affect their undergraduate admissions.

The June 29 ruling decreed that colleges can’t consider race when deciding if to admit a student.

Missouri’s Joint Committee on Education, led by last year’s chair Rep. Doug Richey, held a discussion of this change and invited the state’s public universities to comment.

Richey, who is running for the state senate, said the Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development was unable to attend but sent a statement that the decision did not impact the department.

Missouri’s community colleges also told Richey they were not affected by the Supreme Court’s decision because they did not consider race in admissions.

Paul Wagner, executive director of the Council on Public Higher Education, said the decision had “no impact” on the council’s member schools — which includes Missouri State University, Lincoln University and Truman State University.

“Race is not a factor in admissions at any of my schools, and it wasn’t before the decision or now or. There were no plans to make it a factor in admission decisions,” Wagner told the committee.

Kim Humphrey, the University of Missouri’s vice provost for enrollment management, said undergraduate admissions are unchanged at Mizzou and other MU campuses but some graduate programs have to adapt.

“At the undergraduate level, we’ve never included race as a factor in admissions, and that’s true for my colleagues at the other institutions as well,” Humphrey told the committee. “There have been some programs at the graduate and professional level, which I don’t oversee, but they did include (race) as a factor. But they have since stopped that.”

Rep. Ed Lewis, R-Moberly, asked if programs have replaced explicitly asking one’s race for a less apparent approach.

Humphrey said she was not aware of this.

Richey said he noticed an essay question a family member was answering that asked about overcoming challenges. He said it could be the “new reality.”

He was concerned about accrediting bodies pressuring colleges to have more diversity. But Humphrey and Wagner weren’t aware of racial makeup affecting accreditation.

“My understanding is that there are some accreditors at a programmatic level that want to look at whether your student body is representative of whatever your general service population is, but it is not a scoring factor in accreditation,” Wagner said.

He said the data is readily available, so campuses don’t provide this information to accrediting bodies.

“It’s just something that they look at, but it’s not a scoring factor as far as whether you’re closer or farther to earning the accreditation,” Wagner said.

Richey said he thinks there will be national conversations around accreditation.

“I do think it’s important for us to protect our state universities from a kind of pressure that would put them in a position where they would have to become very creative in their admissions process or even, quite frankly, their hiring process on campus to meet an expectation of an accrediting body that puts them at odds with the law,” he said.

Although the hearing did not include evidence of pressure from accrediting bodies, Richey is interested in investigating further to check whether they place diversity expectations on colleges after the Supreme Court decision.

This story was originally published by the Missouri Independent.

Annelise Hanshaw covers education for the Missouri Independent — a beat she has held on both the East and West Coast prior to joining the Missouri Independent staff. A born-and-raised Missourian, she is proud to be back in her home state.
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