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Heritage, CWU say they won’t abandon race considerations

Heritage University holds its Commencement ceremony May 5, 2018, at the Yakima Valley SunDome. (Amanda Ray / Yakima Herald-Republic)
Heritage University holds its Commencement ceremony May 5, 2018, at the Yakima Valley SunDome. (Amanda Ray / Yakima Herald-Republic)
By Alec Regimbal Yakima Herald-Republic

YAKIMA, Wash. – Last week, the Trump administration announced it would not encourage schools to use race as a factor in the admissions process, rescinding Obama-era guidance meant to promote diversity among students.

Officials at local colleges say that decision won’t change the way they admit students.

“The student learning experience is enhanced when all students get to learn and interact with students of all races and ethnicities and socio-economic levels,” said David Wise, vice president of marketing and communications at Heritage University in Toppenish. “The outcome is better for all students because they develop empathy and understanding.”

The shift by the Trump administration gives schools and colleges the federal government’s blessing to leave race out of admissions and enrollment decisions and underscores the contentious politics that for decades have surrounded affirmation action policies, which have repeatedly been challenged before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The new policy dramatically departs from the stance of the Obama administration, which on multiple occasions said schools could consider race in admissions decisions and should do so to foster diversity.

Wise said that after being forced to consider race in admission, universities likely understand the value in a diverse student body. He said he hopes they keep Obama-era practices.

“Regardless of whatever the current president or any president says, we’re hopeful that all admissions policies at all universities would be cognizant of the better learning outcome that is really achieved by having a broad mix of all races and ethnicities and socio-economic levels,” Wise said.

“I really hope that’s the long-term outcome of this, that no matter what … universities understand that the outcome for all students is better.”

In a statement released last week, Central Washington University President James Gaudino said the university will continue encouraging diversity in its admissions.

“Central Washington University is committed to having a diverse student body that reflects the rich and diverse heritage of our community, our state, our nation, and the Earth,” he said. “Central remains firmly committed to providing the finest educational opportunities for students from all walks of life. We all benefit by enrolling students with a wide variety of perspectives and life experiences.”

An official from the office of admissions at Yakima Valley College was not available for comment last week, but spokesman Jay Frank said the Trump administration’s move should have little, if any, effect on the college’s admissions policy.

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