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If the Supreme Court bans race-conscious affirmative action, as expected, selective higher education institutions almost certainly will become less diverse, reducing the rates of degree attainment among students from historically underrepresented racial/ethnic groups. This report explores the legal history of racial equity in education, evaluates alternatives to using race/ethnicity in college admissions, and considers changes to the K–12 education system that would improve educational opportunity. In the long term, the only way to ensure diversity at selective higher education institutions is to confront the segregation and inequity in K–12 education and society at large.
In partnership with the Postsecondary Value Commission, we conducted a thought experiment on the costs of inequality in the US education system. Our simulation found that the US economy misses out on $956 billion per year, along with numerous nonmonetary benefits, as a result of postsecondary attainment gaps by economic status and race/ethnicity. The Cost of Economic and Racial Injustice in Postsecondary Education finds that closing these gaps would require an initial public investment of at least $3.97 trillion, but the benefits would outweigh the costs over time. Equalizing educational attainment without increasing student debt for low-income adults could also boost GDP by a total of $764 billion annually.