Profs & Pints DC: Race, Class, and Colleges--Door tickets remain available.

By Profs and Pints (other events)

Thursday, April 20 2023 6:00 PM 8:30 PM EDT

Advance ticket sales have ended but plenty of additional tickets remain available at the door.

Profs and Pints DC presents “Race, Class, and Colleges,” a look at structural barriers to education access and the impact of a potential Supreme Court decision to end affirmative action in college admissions, with Richard D. Kahlenberg, professorial lecturer of public policy and administration at George Washington University.

American colleges are admirably dedicated to creating racially diverse student bodies, which help improve the learning of students and implicitly seek to address our nation’s history of slavery and segregation. But, while the nation’s most sought-after colleges and universities take racial diversity very seriously, they seem much less concerned with enrolling student bodies that are economically diverse. Some enroll more students from families in the top 1 percent in terms of income than families in the bottom 60 percent.

Gain a firm understanding of the role that class plays in determining access to higher learning from Richard D. Kahlenberg, a lifelong scholar of class-based disparities in education, a leader of the movement to economically integrate K–12 schooling, and perhaps the nation’s most prominent proponent of class-based affirmative action in higher education admissions. He’ll leave you with a firm understanding of how inequalities in school funding, the economic segregation of neighborhoods, and pervasive class bias in the college admissions process place barriers in front of the less fortunate at every stage of education pipeline.   

Kahlenberg’s take on debates over education access is an unorthodox one that leaves him tough to pigeonhole. On the one hand, he has spent most of his career working with civil rights groups and he has helped diversify New York City public schools, find ways to reduce housing segregation, and create a civil right for workers to unionize. On the other, he became an expert witness for those challenging the affirmative action policies of Harvard University and the University of North Carolina in cases pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. His take on the college affirmative action debate is that colleges would not need to consider applicants’ race to get the diversity they seek if they would instead give more consideration to class, and that Supreme Court decision striking down race-conscious admissions paradoxically could give rise to more liberal public policies opening colleges’ doors to more working-class students.

If the Supreme Court’s conservative majority ends up banning race-conscious admissions in ruling on the Harvard and UNC cases, class-based affirmative action might emerge as the fallback that will prevent a sharp decline in selective colleges’ enrollments of Black, Latino, and Native American students. Kahlenberg will discuss what such class-based policies could look like and what research says about their prospects of success. (Advance tickets: $13.50 plus sales tax and processing fees. Doors: $17, or $15 with a student ID. Listed time is for doors. Talk starts 30 minutes later.)  

Image: Harvard’s 2015 graduates gather on the morning of commencement. (Photo by Caroline Culler / Wikimedia Commons.)