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College-Admissions Professionals Not as Diverse as the Students They Recruit

A new report out from the National Association for College Admission Counseling finds that the professionals reaching out to prospective college students are not as ethnically diverse as the population they are recruiting.

Women and racial/ethnic groups are underrepresented in key segments of the admissions profession, according to the results of a survey of 1,500 admission counselors, directors, deans, and administrators at colleges and universities released July 30.

About 8 percent of college counselors and assistant/associate directors are black and 11 percent are Hispanics. But only 5 percent of vice presidents and deans are black and 2 percent are Latino, the study found.

From 1976 to 2011, the percentage of black college students in the U.S. rose from 10 percent to 15 percent and the percentage of Hispanic college students increased from 4 percent to 14 percent, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. During the same period, the percentage of white students fell from 84 percent to 61 percent.

NACAC officials say that admissions offices should be generally representative of the population they wish to serve, for many of the same reasons the higher education community believes that the student body should reflect the population that the college wishes to serve.

"Admission officers are the face of the institution, and often find themselves speaking to students and families of widely varying backgrounds," said David Hawkins, the organization's director of policy ad research, in an email. "Admission officers determine what schools will be visited, how presentations are made, and what messages are conveyed about the institution." He added that it's important to have a range of experiences represented on the admission staff and diversity will be increasingly relevant to colleges wishing to serve this burgeoning population of new college students.

The report also reflected deep concerns by admission professionals about the pressure to generate more and more revenue for colleges. They cited threats to need-based financial aid and "merit aid masquerading as need-based." Some respondents to the NACAC survey, on which the report is based, feared the "philosophy of education getting lost" and the pressure to generate money has the potential to trump ethics-centered practices at colleges, the report said.

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