Award-Winning Study on Affirmative Action Published in Harvard Law & Policy Review

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Pearson’s Dr. Matthew Gaertner’s Research Speaks to Improving Socioeconomic Diversity on College Campuses


Harvard Law & Policy Review today published findings from an award-winning study by Pearson research scientist Dr. Matthew Gaertner that explores how race-neutral affirmative action systems based on class can be used to achieve class diversity and expand access to higher education for disadvantaged students.

The article, “Considering Class: College Access and Diversity,” is based on Gaertner’s research that won the Association for Institutional Research 2012 Charles F. Elton Best Paper Award for its outstanding contribution to decision-making in higher education. Dr. Gaertner’s article will appear in the online and print version of the Review Volume 7-2.

For decades, education policy-makers have struggled with the issue of race-based admissions policies, with multiple states banning the practice. A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Fisher v. University of Texas further complicated matters by permitting race-conscious college admissions policies only if “no workable race-neutral alternatives would produce the educational benefits of diversity.” As described in Dr. Gaertner’s article, one practical alternative is to consider socioeconomic background in the admissions process.

“Fisher reaffirmed that diversity in higher education is a compelling interest. The diversity that contributes to an enhanced learning environment includes racial diversity, and also socioeconomic diversity. This research demonstrates that schools can develop effective admissions processes to increase the diversity of their student population in both ways,” said Melissa Hart, the study’s co-author and professor of law at the University of Colorado. “It also suggests the importance of looking past the initial admissions decision to the kinds of continuing support that schools can offer students to maximize their chances of college success.”

The University of Colorado Boulder began developing a socioeconomic affirmative action system in 2008 and fully implemented the system in 2011; findings from that work are summarized in the Review.

“There are good reasons to maintain race-conscious admissions policies and separate good reasons to consider class in the admissions process, but given the tough new standard emphasized in Fisher, admissions personnel may soon be tasked with maintaining diversity without the ability to take race into account,” said Dr. Gaertner of Pearson’s Research & Innovation Network. “Our results suggest carefully designed class-based approaches can support universities’ diversity goals in the post-Fisher context. And in some cases, class-based policies identify students who may fare well in college, but would have otherwise been overlooked.”

The experiments and related findings are available in the Review’s latest issue at

About Pearson’s Research & Innovation Network
To help address the most pressing questions facing teachers and students, Pearson brought together top education experts in the Research & Innovation Network with the mission to research and invent capabilities and tools educators need to create engaging, meaningful, and personalized learning that leads to student success. The Research & Innovation Network is led by Dr. Kimberly O’Malley, Senior Vice President of Research and Development, and supports five centers: the Center for Digital Data, Analytics & Adaptive Learning; the Center for College & Career Success; the Center for NextGen Learning & Assessment; the Center for Online Learning; and the Center for Educator Effectiveness. For more information about the Pearson’s Research & Innovation Network, visit

About Pearson
Pearson is the world’s leading learning company, providing educational materials and services and business information through the Financial Times Group. Pearson serves learners of all ages around the globe, employing 41,000 people in more than 70 countries. For more information about Pearson,

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Susan Aspey
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