Politcal Science Essay on Cultural Diversity in Maryland

Cultural Diversity in Maryland


Maryland has a number of colleges and universities. It is true that the performance of Maryland’s higher education system can be greatly influenced by the adoption of diversity. On the same note, literature also supports this argument, pointing out that diversity must be considered when it comes to higher education policy making. Diversity within higher education system is important into helping all students meet their needs. Therefore, a diversified system ensures that students from different backgrounds are provided with appropriate chances in the education system. It is important for all students to have an equal opportunity in order to compete with other colleagues where success chances are realistic (Allen, 1992). Diversity helps in ensuring that educational backgrounds and educational historical backgrounds are all considered within higher education systems (Pascarella and Terenzini, 2005). Higher education institutions can only be effective when they embrace diversification. Effectiveness comes from specialization that helps such institutions focus energy towards important areas.

The above arguments reiterate why diversity in higher education systems is important. It is assumed that embracing diversity is important as it helps in creating client-orientation, especially towards meeting the needs of students and labor market. According to Allen (1992), other advantages are seen in the ability to create innovativeness, social mobility, effectiveness and flexibility. In general terms, diversified education systems are seen as better than less diversified ones. For this reason, the government has the responsibility of coming up with policies that encourage diversity in higher education system. A number of government policies have been implemented in attempt to achieve diversity within higher education system; however, it has been hard to achieve the desired results.

Admission is one way of achieving cultural diversity. “Student body diversity is a compelling state interest that can justify the use of race in university admissions.”  This is part of the Supreme Court ruling in a 2003 landmark case, Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306 (2003) in which the court upheld the ruling where a Michigan University had decided to consider race as part of a program to achieve a culturally diversified student body. According to the Supreme Court judges, having a culturally diversified student body is for the state; therefore, race should be considered when making admissions to the university. It is upon every institution of higher learning to ensure that diversity is achieved within its system. According to the ruling, universities hold a special niche within the society considering that they represent freedom of speech and association.

For Maryland, the ruling made by the Supreme Court judges is important considering that efforts have been and are being made towards achieving diversity in higher education system. In the past, legal uncertainties have made it difficult for many institutions to come out and promote racial and ethnic balance as educational goals (Allen, 1992). On the same note, establishing scholarship program that offer equal protection has been affected in the fact by legal interpretations. For this reason, less had been done by different stakeholders in an effort to promote diversity.

The Policy Issue

The above introduction has brought into focus some of the benefits that accrue within higher education system when diversity is adopted. As noted, the best way to embrace diversity is by coming up with appropriate policies that are able to give direction towards the same course. Maryland has tried to come with policies that adopt diversity in an attempt to establish a culturally integrated higher education system. So far, much still needs to be done since the real diversity has not been attained. Since matters of race and higher education admission has been an emotive issue in the United States, it is important to look at certain laws, judicial rulings that form precedence when it comes to formulating a roadmap towards cultural diversity.

Maryland has thirteen public universities and colleges offering 4-year courses, sixteen public community institutions and twenty three private colleges that offer four-year programs. In Maryland, many of the students (82%) attend public rather than private non-profit or private for profit that account for sixteen percent higher education institutions respectively. Community colleges account for 45% of the total public enrolments in this state. Maryland Higher Education Commission was created by the Legislature to coordinate, plan, and supervise higher education system in Maryland. In 1988, The University System of Maryland was also established to help in coordination of the higher education system (Seifert, Drummond and Pascarella, 2006). Despite the efforts put in place by the relevant bodies in a bid to improve diversity within the state, it is obvious that cultural diversity is yet to be achieved. Analysis of the present situation shows that more still needs to be done, something that can only be achieved by the developing of a new roadmap.

Shortcomings in the Current System

Disparities are a major concern in Maryland’s higher education system. It is a fact that the state has achieved much in terms of education; however, disparities exist in degree attainment and college preparation, mostly among different demographic groups and regions. This is shown by the fact that only 36% of blacks and 22% of Hispanics between ages 25 and 35 hold associate degrees as compared to 53% of the whites. Presently, Hispanics are reported to be the fasted growing group within the state; however, their degree attainment has been stagnant for some time. Among the adult population in Maryland, only 30% of them hold at least associate degree. Statistics also show that less (35%) native born Marylanders have at least a bachelor’s degree as compared to 44% of residents from other states or even countries.

On the same note, poor black and Hispanic school children score lower grades in most of their tests, most of who do drop out of school for various reasons. Those who manage to further their education end up in colleges but still fail to achieve much as they drop out. This scenario is different from those children from wealthier and white families. 63% of blacks and 66% of Hispanics graduate from high school in Maryland as compared to 84% of the white students. Statistics also indicate that more white students (43%) are enrolled in a college or university within Maryland as compared to 33% of blacks and 26% of Hispanics of ages between 18 and 24.

These statistics are indicators of growing disparities within higher education in Maryland. As noted above, Hispanics are growing in numbers and more of similar statistics translate into isolation of more and more people. It is important that the state has already noted the problem at hand; however, the way forward would be the establishment of a coherent public policy on higher education ensuring that plans are put in place to offer opportunity in terms of admissions. Avoiding disparities in admissions would also entail preparing students for college education, something that requires appropriate legislations (Seifert, Drummond and Pascarella, 2006).

Legacy of segregation and racism is also another issue that has not been addressed adequately. Earlier, Maryland had a segregated higher education system that forced black and white students to attend specific schools. However, since the enactment of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the U.S. Office for Civil Rights has continued to supervise the compliance with the act. Maryland has since tried to make investments towards ensuring that formerly black and white institutions are made to the same level. On this issue, the problem has been on how to reach a balance of strength between these two types of institutions. These are issues that must be addressed in order to establish a system that ensures training of students that will later be productive in the society. As much as the state has made great steps towards development, race is an issue that must be addressed through necessary policies. Without that, the Maryland society and the labor market will likely be affected by the increasing uneducated youthful generation.


Cooperation among leadership within the state is something worth noting. This has been seen among governors and legislative leaders who have continued to give their support and commitment towards higher education. This commitment can also be attributed to the fact that most of these governors and legislators have had strong higher educational background. For instance, Governor Parris Glendenning, who served between the years 1995 and 2003, had earlier served at the University of Maryland, College Park as a professor of government and politics. Bodies that have been instituted through legislations have worked hand in hand with the politicians and state leadership to ensure that higher education administration is organized.

Strengths of the existing system can be seen in some of the successful initiatives that have helped in advancing reforms. In 1995, P-20 Leadership Council was established to help in promoting corporation among all segments in education; from lower level (pre-kindergarten) to higher specialized institutions (graduate schools). One of the positive results from this body has been the increased communication between various educational agencies. The main goal of P-20 has been to help high school students get ready for college and university education. Nevertheless, this goal has not been achieved as required. The second advantage of the current cooperation has led to the ease of transferring credits from two-year community colleges to four-year colleges and universities (Stefkovich and Leas, 1994). At present, there is a possibility of transferring credit as a group and not as individual students. However, almost 65% of students from community colleges complain that universities fail to transfer credits of those courses with at least a C.

The last issue of the current system is in affordability and funding. College and university education costs have continued to rise in most of the states in the United States. Between 1999 and 2009, tuition fees increased by 24% in four-year universities and by 7% in two-year colleges within Maryland. Statistics indicate that during the same period, no increase in family earnings was recorded, meaning that education became less affordable. In spite of these challenges, Maryland has performed well in comparison to other states by slowing the increase in college tuition fees. To achieve this, Tuition Affordability Act of 2006 enacted, which led to the establishment of Funding Commission. This commission came up with a good blueprint on ways of finding higher education in Maryland. The same commission has also worked with relevant stakeholders like the Governor, legislatures and university presidents in order to freeze tuition fees for college students (Seifert, Drummond and Pascarella, 2006). Tuition paid by low income families was also capped in order to avoid increases when family incomes were low. In terms of funding, higher education in Maryland has continued to attract federal funding towards research and development. Presently, challenges in implementing the blue prints come from the decreasing tax revenue within the state, meaning that the full realization of set goals will still be a problem.

Alternative Policy Options

Note that all of the achievements made from the established policies do not directly affect cultural diversity within the state. For this reason, there is need of coming up with a higher education system that would be more affordable and with less disparities in order to make education more accessible to the nonwhites, poor and urban Marylanders. Race still remains an important issue that need to play a role when it comes to offering fair chance in terms of admitting students in higher institutions of learning. The Funding Commission plan is a good guide towards achieving positive goals, especially on funding higher education. However, a weakness exists on the fact the plan can only be implemented when economy is doing well. In the recent times, economic recession has been real with many states having to survive with lower tax revenue, technically stalling implementation of the plan (Stefkovich and Leas, 1994).

An appropriate plan that is able to promote cultural diversity in Maryland should be able to address the following issues: an elaborate ways in which each institution of higher learning is prepared to address matters of cultural diversity among students, staff and faculty; a clear process of reporting instances of hate crimes within campuses; cultural diversity sensitization through deliberate effort by institutions; and a description of the process of admitting, recruiting and retaining culturally diverse student body.

Why Culturally Diverse Higher Institutions

It is important to understand the needs and benefits that from deliberate effort towards having a culturally diverse student body. Grutter v. Bollinger, the Court noted that embracing culturally diversity has more advantages to the American society. Higher education should be diverse because it helps develop understanding between various races, something that helps in breaking racial stereo types. This is one of the best ways to understand people from other races. Different institutions within Maryland should be free to come up with programs that produce experiences on cultural diversity. Cultural diversity calls for admission of more racial minorities as this provides them with an opportunity to be heard (Pascarella and Terenzini, 2005). Race preferences when making admissions should not play any part.

Diversity ensures that social mobility is upheld within higher education system, something that can only be achieved by offering diverse modes of entry and forms of transfer. In such a setting, it is easy to rectify some of the mistakes that may arise from wrong choices. On the same note, it means that more opportunities to succeed are availed to the students and other staff while promoting motivation of all stakeholders. Diversity with higher education system should also help in meeting needs of the labor market. The modernization has led to the diversification of the labor market and in order to satisfy the same, higher education must come out with diversified programs the suit the market. Therefore, diversification is important as it helps provide opportunities to all the students to pursue individual specialization interests. A homogenous higher education system has been found lacking the ability to satisfy needs of the labor market.

Political needs of the various groups within the society also play an important role. The need to meet needs of different groups within the society is important as it gives assurance of political legitimization. This means that a proper higher education system should ensure that diversity is embraced in order to address the needs of all specific interest groups within the society. A less diversified system is prone to a number of challenges and disruptions. Another argument comes from the fact that higher education diversification helps in merging elite and mass education systems. It is known that mass education systems seem to be more diverse as it allows for heterogeneity and the ability to respond to the needs of the market. This may not be achieved through elite education system. Studies also show that elite education systems survive from the support of the mass or non-elite education centers (Stefkovich and Leas, 1994). This means that the ability to provide necessary knowledge and skills to the majority of students will help them fit in the labor market, something that helps in the survival of the elite in the society.

The Environment

Effective cultural diversity within individual institutions would require plans that meet a compelling state interest and is narrowly-tailored to give benefits in terms of race, gender and ethnicity under stipulated circumstances. It is important to appreciate the fact that the drive and interest to establish a culturally diverse education differs from one institution to another. This means that the “compelling state requirement” also differs. As it stands, there are enough evidences that justify need for all institutions of higher learning in Maryland to work towards cultural diversification. The United States is the most diverse nation in the world, something that should make higher education system embrace cultural diversity as much as possible. This is shown by people from all parts of the world, speaking different languages, having different religions and speaking different languages (Stefkovich and Leas, 1994). This means that Maryland and her diverse culture should also get prepare to meet demands of the population.

In the current state of affairs, a competent leader in business or military requires cultural literacy. Therefore, higher education system provides a proper platform and opportunity to develop cultural literacy in order to be effective in the society. It is such institutions where ideas are shared and critical thinking ability developed out of experiences from other races and cultures. Within campuses, sharing a room with someone from another race has the capacity of enhancing emotional attachment, friendship and exchange of ideas in life. The above reasons prove that no college or university should an excuse of not having a plan towards cultural diversity, especially in this century (Pascarella and Terenzini, 2005). In terms of narrow-tailoring, institutions should come up with plans of increasing the number of minority races in campus. Nevertheless, race must never been a determinant when it comes to the defining elements of each college or university applicant. Each applicant should be evaluated individually to ascertain their qualification. On the same note, this does not mean that certain boundaries like quotas and percentages. Narrow tailoring requires that race neutral policies be formulated to help achieve certain cultural diversity.

Policy Recommendations

In order to enjoy the benefits of cultural diversity, there is need to formulate policies that deliberately affect how higher institutions conduct their affairs. This should entail steps that strive to achieve diversity. This calls for all higher institutions of learning to integrate cultural diversity in their mission statements. The plan towards this course should be appropriately funded in order to achieve the intended goals and objectives. However, this does not mean conformity but a policy that should encourages excellence, originality and risk taking (Perna, 2001). This paper recommends that cultural diversity can be achieved through policies that affect admissions, recruitment and outreach programs, and financial aid. Higher institutions within Maryland should also ensure that student success is encouraged though deliberate campus programs. Finally, faculty and staff diversity is important as it can easily determine how cultural diversity is achieved.

Consideration of Race and Ethnicity in Admissions

Past Supreme Court rulings have insisted that race and ethnicity should be considered when admitting student into higher institutions of higher learning. Diverse student body is important because it stands to create an environment with free expression. It should be appreciated that the future of the United States depends on the ability to produce leaders who are trained and exposed properly on ideas and matters of handling diverse people. Maryland should make this a reality by ensuring that all higher education admissions consider race and ethnicity. As things are, it is obvious that minority groups in Maryland are not well represented in the higher education system. Cultural minority is a state interest because it likely to help in integrating diversity into the labor market.

Equal Protection Clause, 42 U.S.C. §1981 requires that no student should be discriminated in terms of their race or ethnicity. Race conscious policies are necessary as this is the only way to encourage cultural diversity in Maryland. On the same note, it is higher education admissions policy must be able to accommodate the fact that deliberate attempt towards achieving diversity must be made. This may require may require adoption of critical mass during admissions. Critical mass should be defined by the benefits that would accrue to an institution when after adopting cultural diversity. This should not be confused to a measure adopted from determining a certain percentage of minority students that can be admitted in an institution. As indicated above, critical mass should be based on the benefits that a college or university is set to benefit from achieving a culturally diversified student body.

Individualized Admission Process

Individualized consideration should be adopted when making admissions in order to provide the equal chance stipulated in the constitution. In most institutions, the admission process entailed point scale format in which students are awarded automatic points for being members of minority races and ethnicity. Some points are also awarded for the socio-economic status or attendance of minority high schools. Such a policy does not help achieve the equality stipulated in the constitution since it is likely to lead to the automatic disqualification of white students in terms of admission criteria. Many court cases have arisen from such policies, leading to questioning of the effects in terms of cultural diversity. Courts have ruled such policies as unconstitutional since they do not serve to achieve diversity.

A change in policy should adopt individualized admission process where each student is admitted based on the ability to achieve diversity. This calls for formulation of a new design where questions are asked to elaborate on student background, personal achievement and the contribution that each student should contribute to the cultural diversity of the institution. Things are likely to change if Maryland higher education system adopts such admission process (Perna, 2001). As indicated earlier, this would depend on mission statement by each college or university. In the bid to achieve the set goals in terms of cultural and intellectual diversity, an institution is likely to come up with elaborate plan that admits all students depending on their background and what they can offer in terms of meeting diversity expectation of the institution. Having a racially diversified student body has immense advantages as it leads to the less stereotyping, harmonious living and understanding among many races.

On admissions, Maryland higher education policies should allow for each institution to come up with own critical mass objectives that is in line with their educational mission and goals. What Maryland colleges and universities should avoid is tying this with a strict numerical target as a means of achieving critical mass. Decision on appropriate criteria must be made after a critical look at the institution’s diversity goals; something that requires more than race and ethnicity.

Outreach Programs

Increasing the number of minority student in Maryland higher education system also requires adopting recruitment and outreach programs. Benefit is such effort is likely to increase the number of applications from the under privileged minority groups within the state. This method has been found not elicit legal challenges as it does not out rightly recruit one group of people while excluding others (Perna, 2001). Pre-admission activities by various institutions do not amount to constitutional challenges. Once an institution has already developed its goals in terms of cultural diversity, it is appropriate to embark on recruitment effort in order to achieve the same. Outreach programs should be done in high schools with more minority communities in order to encourage admission. However, this should not mean that applications from such recruitments should not be individually evaluated in terms of the goals set by institutions. Judgment of each application from the minority students must be made on individual basis.

Financial Aid and Scholarship

No past court cases out rightly give direction on cultural diversity in terms of financial aid to students. However, Grutter and Gratz (2003) case gives some guidelines on how Maryland colleges and universities can reorganize themselves financial programs in order to achieve diversity goals. Financial aid has the ability to affect admission and retention of culturally diverse higher educational institution. In 1978, University of Maryland College Park’s Benjamin Banneker Scholarship Program was established to provide scholarship to students from African American background. This initiative was instituted to help provide a remedy to the past discriminatory policies within Maryland’s education system. Historically, this state’s higher education system established institutions that racially segregated minorities from whites. A problem arose in 1990 when Mr. Podberesky who was not from the African American race, sued the University of Maryland because he could not benefit from this program. The court ruled that the program was unconstitutional as it was not tailored to help achieve the intended diversity. Instead of achieving diversity, it looked like it was meant only to achieve racial balancing.

All scholarships should be aimed at achieving cultural diversity through a selection criterion that picks students who exhibit exceptional academic achievement as well as the potential. With this respect, race and ethnicity should be used as part of the many issues to be evaluated in order to select qualified students. Established scholarships in Maryland should use high school results, results from standardized tests, recommendations, extracurricular abilities, honors, awards received, educational background of the family and written essays. Every university should endeavor to establish cultural diversity as an important move towards academic excellence. The process of awarding scholarships must incorporate diversity by incorporating the above elements.

Factors Affecting Recommendations

Maryland higher education system has helped achieve much; however, full realization of the cultural diversity is yet to be achieved. Lawsuits and court cases are major challenges in terms of implementing policies. As indicated in this analysis, it is important to look at various legislated policies and the outcome of court cases in order to come up with appropriate method. Most of the policies that have been created within and without Maryland have led to a number of lawsuits that have left gaps and answered questions (Allen, 1992). In order to come up with effective policies to achieve cultural diversity, it is important to critically study judgments from various court cases. This will help come up with policies that clearly want to achieve diversity without the threat of constitutional challenges. The constitution of the United States guarantees equal protection among all persons. This means that all legislations must consider minorities and whites in a manner that provides a common platform for all. Cultural diversity is an important concept that stands to benefit the American society at large. Higher education system should be able to come up with policies that ensure achievement of the same.

Note that the American population is the most diverse with the number of minority races and ethnic communities growing by each day. This also translates to the diverse economy and labor market. For this reason, Maryland higher education system has the probability to help in producing leaders who are well vast with challenges of the diverse communities within the state. Deliberate programs meant to promote admission from the minority groups must be initiated by various institutions. Furthermore, the all colleges and universities must ensure that their priorities are right concerning cultural diversity and its effects on the educational excellence.


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