from the Illinois Board of Higher Education

September 25, 1998

Contact: Ross Hodel, 217/782-2551

Don Sevener, 217/782-3632


BHE to Hear Author Review Affirmative Action Benefits

Minorities who enter elite colleges and universities through affirmative action programs received significant benefits, including high graduation rates, a greater likelihood of graduate study, and a stronger commitment to community leadership. Those are among the findings of a comprehensive study of affirmative action policies by an educator of national renown who will speak at a meeting of the Illinois Board of Higher Education October 6, 1998.

William G. Bowen, the former president of Princeton University and co-author of The Shape of the River: Long-Term Consequences of Considering Race in College and University Admissions, will address the Board at its meeting at McHenry County College, in Crystal Lake.

"We are grateful to Dr. Bowen for taking time to meet with the Board to share the conclusions of his important study," Keith R. Sanders, Executive Director, said. "He will present a valuable perspective that will inform our own deliberations as we move ahead with the Citizens' Agenda for Higher Education in Illinois and plans to ensure that groups traditionally underrepresented on college campuses find the doors of opportunity open to them."

Racial preference policies at colleges and universities have been under attack in recent years, with voter referendums and court rulings effectively outlawing such policies for college admissions in California and Texas. However, the study Bowen conducted with Derek Bok, former president of Harvard University, of affirmative action programs at 28 colleges and universities with selective admissions found significant and long-lasting benefits for minorities who enter college through such policies. For instance, their study, which looked at more than 45,000 students who enrolled at 28 colleges and universities in 1976 or 1989, found that:

Bowen will discuss the study and affirmative action policies with the Board of Higher Education, as it continues its consideration of a Citizens' Agenda for Higher Education in Illinois. Among its goals, the Citizens' Agenda calls for increasing the access and success of underrepresented groups in Illinois.

Also on the Board's agenda are other matters related to the Citizens Agenda planning initiative. Executive Director Keith Sanders will brief Board members on plans to implement the Citizens' Agenda, and the Board will review a study that demonstrates the value of educational attainment and strategies for improving the attainment levels in Illinois.