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    A Convener

    Urban brings people together to discuss new evidence, generate bold ideas, and explore how policies play out in real life. We convene change agents with diverse perspectives to create shared solutions and provide a place for policymakers to apply our research to a rapidly evolving environment.


    Ensuring Students Have Access to College in a Post–Affirmative Action World

    In anticipation of the US Supreme Court’s ruling [PDF] that colleges and universities could no longer consider students’ race or ethnicity in admissions decisions, Urban analyzed the effects on college and university diversity in states that have banned affirmative action.

    Proponents for affirmative action in higher education rally in front of the US Supreme Court

    After the historic decision, Urban convened about 40 leading academics, advocates, and philanthropic and foundation representatives. Department of Education and White House officials also joined at our Washington, DC, offices to discuss the future of college admissions. Our gathering and the ideas it generated contributed to the following:

    • Urban produced research-based recommendations informed by the discussion. Colleges are using our guidance to ensure they have a diverse applicant pool and an equitable admissions process without affirmative action. Still, even with our recommendations, evidence suggests diversity will fall at selective institutions.
    • The Departments of Education and Justice released new guidance [PDF] to help colleges navigate the implications of the court’s decision. It reflects key takeaways from Urban’s convening and cites our research.
    • The Illinois Governor’s Office and New York Black Legislators Caucus requested Urban’s advice on how to maintain equity in their states’ colleges and universities.

    Research shows that no single race-neutral admissions policy would produce today’s levels of racial and ethnic diversity on university campuses. However, our analysis shows that through a combination of strategies, equity-minded leaders can help ensure students of color and those from families with low incomes can benefit from the opportunities that higher education yields.


    Guaranteeing All People Can Benefit from Federal Policies and Programs Equitably

    On his first day in office, President Biden issued an executive order charging that every federal agency advance equity for all, including people of color and others who have been historically underserved and adversely affected by persistent poverty and inequality.

    US President Joe Biden arrives to speak on racial equity with US Vice President Kamala Harris

    The president strengthened that call in 2023 with a second order that, among other provisions, requires all federal agencies to create annual action plans for advancing equity. The plans must address how policies perpetuate systemic barriers to opportunities.

    Urban has been a go-to resource for and thought partner to executive branch and agency leaders in this unprecedented effort to embed equity into the fabric of federal policymaking and service delivery. In 2023, that included hosting a series of convenings and workshops where Urban experts advised federal agencies on the development of their action plans and how to analyze equity, measure the outcomes of their work, and include community members in their processes.

    Urban’s convenings built upon our analysis of the initial equity plans of more than 20 agencies and our evaluation of their equity commitments. For federal agencies to achieve their goals, we recommended they move from focusing on processes and instead consider equity in how they allocate resources and design policies and systems. Several agencies have now cited Urban’s strategy in internal documents, signaling the potential for institutionalizing equity in the federal government for years to come.

    Given the scale of federal programs, progress in advancing equity across all government efforts—from transportation to health care to employment—could, over time, help improve services for millions of people across the country. It also has the potential to create a real pathway toward economic mobility for historically underserved communities.


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    An Advisor