Diversity in higher education has made significant strides in the last century – yet there continues to be opportunities for improvement. For example, the 2021 American Bar Association Profile found that only 4.7% of all lawyers were Black and 5.8% were Hispanic, which is small considering the U.S. population is approximately 14% Black and 18.5% Hispanic.
Over the years, key diversity milestones have helped pave the way in education:
- Second Morrill Act of 1890: This act read that no money could be paid out to a state or territory to support or maintain a college whose admissions were based by race or color.
- Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: During the civil rights, this piece of legislation stated that any institution receiving federal financial assistance could not exclude any on the grounds of race, color or national origin or subject them to discrimination.
- Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA): This expanded the federal student aid program and was designed to make higher education more accessible among historically excluded groups, including low-income and middle-income students.
- Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972: The amendment focused on banning discrimination based on sex at any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.
- Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973: This act centered around banning discrimination against people with disabilities, stating that any college receiving federal funding could not discriminate against applicants with disabilities or treat students with disabilities any different from other applicants.
- Affirmative Action: Considered one of the most progressive measures in the effort to improve diversity in higher education, this was dedicated to increasing representation of historically excluded groups versus the other acts which supported banning discrimination.
Recent events in the U.S. have underscored that some populations continue to grapple with access to opportunities. However, striving for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is extremely important, especially for law schools, as the legal profession and judicial system require diversity to be successful.
In recent years, law schools have re-energized their DEI efforts, including the addition of new initiatives and trainings for students, faculty and staff. The American Bar Association also launched its Diversity and Inclusion Center to provide resources and material to help individuals and law schools alike reach these goals. The Diversity and Inclusion Center was followed shortly by a proposal outlined by the ABA announced on Nov. 19, 2021 that would require law schools to enhance their DEI efforts among students, faculty and staff. In addition, the ABA council is working to require law students to attend diversity, equity and inclusion education at least twice during their tenure.
Many law schools are preparing to demonstrate how they will meet the first year portion of the standard. Meanwhile, Western State College of Law, the oldest law school in Orange County, Calif., has always been committed to supporting diversity. In 2021, it awarded over $1.3M in diversity scholarships, and its incoming class includes 55% that identify as a minority, over 58% women and ranges in age from 20-57. Furthermore, it was recently recognized by preLaw Magazine as one of the most diverse law schools, a ranking that evaluates how well each school matches with the U.S. average for each minority population. It was also listed as one of the best law schools for Hispanics. Most recently, Western State announced it will accept the GRE in lieu of an LSAT score for all incoming classes to further underscore its dedication to making law school accessible to all by allowing individuals with different strengths apply, and further expand the applicant pool. Western State’s commitment to diversity goes beyond its student population – it fosters diversity within its faculty and among its nine recent hires, seven of which are women and three identify as a minority.
Western State believes that diversity enhances the law school experience, as it allows students to understand and think through material from various perspectives. To join this collaborative and inclusive community, reach out to our admissions team today!