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In FY 2003, OCR began an initiative to provide technical assistance and public education regarding race-neutral approaches to achieving student body diversity. In order to enable students to exchange ideas with a wide variety of people from diverse geographic regions, socioeconomic backgrounds, cultural heritages and points of view, numerous educational institutions are grappling with ways to ensure that their student body comes from a wide variety of backgrounds. In the 2003 University of Michigan decisions, the U.S. Supreme Court held that institutions must undertake "serious good faith consideration of workable race-neutral alternatives" prior to adopting racial preferences.
The goal of OCR's initiative is to foster thinking about using race-neutral means to produce diversity in educational institutions and to help create a positive climate in which such race-neutral alternatives can be considered. OCR prepared a 40-page report entitled, "Race-Neutral Alternatives in Postsecondary Education: Innovative Approaches to Diversity," which was published by the Department on March 29, 2003. The Report catalogs many of the race-neutral approaches that states are implementing around the country. For example, many educational institutions are providing preferences on the basis of socioeconomic status. Colleges and universities are expanding their recruitment and outreach efforts by targeting students from schools that traditionally have not been "feeder schools" for those institutions. More importantly, states are also promoting advanced placement courses and skill development programs designed to improve educational achievement among students who attend traditionally low performing schools.
OCR also hosted a national conference in Miami, Florida, in April 2003 to present the concepts described in the Report to leading members of the postsecondary education community. Building on the Michigan decisions, OCR has more recently published an additional report that describes race-neutral programs being implemented across the country. The report, which is entitled "Achieving Diversity: Race-Neutral Alternatives In American Education," revises and expands the first edition and includes information on various race-neutral approaches used in K-12 schools, public and private colleges, and graduate and professional schools. Both reports are available at http://www.ed.gov/ocr. Additional reports, disseminating information regarding various aspects of this issue, will be issued in FY 2005 and FY 2006.