UMass Amherst Chancellor Reyes Speaks at White House Unveiling of Report Outlining Strategies to Increase Diversity and Opportunity in Higher Education

September 28, 2023
The White House event panel (l-r) David Wilson, president, Morgan State University (screen); Anne Kress, president, Northern Virginia Community College;  Gene Block, chancellor, University of California, Los Angeles; Neera Tanden, White House domestic policy advisor; Miguel Cardona, secretary of education; Chancellor Javier Reyes; Chris Eisgruber, president, Princeton University;  Pat McGuire, president, Trinity Washington University

WASHINGTON – UMass Amherst Chancellor Javier Reyes was a featured speaker today at the White House as the U.S. Department of Education unveiled a new report, “Strategies for Increasing Diversity and Opportunity in Higher Education.” The report outlines evidence-based strategies and answers President Biden’s charge to the department to elevate promising practices to build inclusive, diverse student bodies in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision on affirmative action. 

Chancellor Reyes was among a select group of higher education leaders invited to speak at the White House event, hosted by Neera Tanden, White House domestic policy advisor, and Miguel Cardona, secretary of education. The higher education leaders included Gene Block, chancellor, University of California, Los Angeles;  Chris Eisgruber, president, Princeton University;  Anne Kress, president, Northern Virginia Community College;  Pat McGuire, president, Trinity Washington University; and David Wilson, president, Morgan State University.

Reyes noted, “It is so important that students of color, including underrepresented minority students, see themselves in college and have the opportunity to realize the promise and possibilities of higher education. This is a shared belief by Governor Healey, UMass President Marty Meehan, and the leaders of each of our campuses. As a land grant university, a fundamental part of our mission is ensuring access for underrepresented students. In doing so, we’ve made a number of changes over the years to build more equity in our admissions process and ensure that every qualified student has access to our educational opportunities. UMass Amherst and our sister campuses in the UMass system are working to increase our visibility in underserved communities so that underrepresented minority students and their families can see pathways to higher education and to our campuses. In short, we go where the students are and show them they can thrive and belong on our campuses.”

The chancellor’s complete remarks, which detail the university’s many strategies to successfully recruit and support underrepresented minority students, can be viewed here.

Secretary Cardona said, “One of the cruelest ironies in America’s current higher education system is that our most inclusive and accessible institutions have lacked adequate resources to invest in student success, while highly selective institutions with vast resources to invest in students and propel them to graduation day admit overwhelmingly affluent applicants with a myriad of advantages. This report reflects President Biden and Vice President Harris’ unyielding commitment to equal opportunity and provides colleges and universities with a roadmap for advancing student body diversity. This moment demands leadership, innovation, and collaboration from leaders at every level to break down barriers for underserved students and reimagine pathways into higher education. Our future is brighter when we prepare students of all backgrounds to lead our multiracial democracy together.”

The Biden Administration encourages institutions of higher education and state leaders to use the report as a resource to consider the ways in which they can expand access to educational opportunity for all. The report provides evidence for steps leaders can take to enhance socioeconomic and racial diversity in colleges, including:

  • Investing in targeted recruitment, outreach, and pathway programs, including with K–12 schools, community colleges, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges and Universities, and Minority-Serving Institutions, including Hispanic Serving Institutions.
  • Giving meaningful consideration in admissions to the adversity students have faced, including a students’ financial means, where a student grew up or attended high school, and personal experiences of hardship and discrimination, including racial discrimination, and ending practices that hinder socioeconomic and racial diversity.
  • Increasing affordability, including through need-based aid, and ensuring transparency and simplicity in student aid application processes.
  • Cultivating welcoming and supportive environments for students and providing comprehensive support programs that increase retention and completion rates.