Updated November 24, 2020 • 6 Min Read

50 Colleges That Encourage Diversity, And Why More Should Follow

According to the U.S. Census Bureau , America is projected to be a minority majority country by 2045. Community colleges are recognizing the need to focus on multiculturalism and inclusion as they cater to an already diverse student population and prepare workers for a global marketplace. Diversity and inclusion are hot topics, and for good reason: Students achieve more at schools where they can connect with people from different races, religions and sexual orientations, in and out of the classroom. Benefits to students include improved critical thinking skills, awareness of social problems, academic engagement and college satisfaction, to name a few. This guide highlights the 50 most diverse and inclusive community colleges, and dives into why it matters.

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How Diverse Are Community College Students?

  • Women make up 56% of the community college population.
  • 36% of community college students are the first generation in their families to pursue higher education.
  • 12% of community college students have a disability.
  • More than 50% of community college students are non-white minorities.
  • The average age of two-year college students is 28.
  • 4% of two-year college students are military veterans.
  • 17% are single parents.

50 Most Diverse and Inclusive Community Colleges

Many two-year colleges already boast diverse student populations, but some schools are going further, proudly cultivating inclusive and equitable campus cultures in various ways. These innovative colleges not only integrate equity and diversity into their overall missions and goals, they also “walk the talk”. They have robust diversity departments with full-time staff who can address equality in terms of gender, sexuality, race, nationality and religion. They have active diversity committees or on-campus clubs. They focus on student retention and offer academic support services to promote success for students of all backgrounds.

To make things easy, we've created a quick way to browse some of these dedicated two-year schools. Take a look at the spotlight below to see who's leading the way in diversity and inclusion in 2018.


To be eligible, community colleges must have: Less than 70% of student enrollment from any one race/ethnicity At least 10 minority staff members At least 3 minority, multicultural, LGBTQ or religion clubs A campus Diversity Office, Diversity Council or Multicultural Center Diversity included as part of school's Mission, Vision or Strategic Plan Less than 50% of students enrolled exclusively in distance education

Advice from the Experts: How to Create a Diverse Community College

Sam Crandall, Ed.D. - Phoenix College

Q: What makes you passionate about diversity and inclusion on the community college campus?

A: I'm so passionate about diversity and inclusion because I'm passionate about student success. Research shows that we lose students in the first semester due to a lack of connection with three points: [other] students, faculty and staff members. Students need to feel like the campus environment is inclusive.

“Community college is open admission, so we see higher numbers of at-risk and underrepresented groups. A lot of students may not feel like they are college material already and may feel invisible.”

So, it's even more vital that we ensure the right message is communicated: that they do belong and that we are going to help them achieve their goals.

Q: What challenges have you encountered while trying to implement diversity and inclusion programs?

A: I worked at a college in the Midwest where I would get a lack of buy-in because the area wasn't diverse enough and there was a very small percentage of non-white students. Faculty didn't see a need for diversity training. Now at my current college in Arizona, there is a much different demographic than the Midwest. There is a lot more visible diversity. However, now faculty don't see a need for diversity training because the college is already so diverse!

“I think there can be a lot of confusion with academic terminology and we can get stuck with a certain word or definition, but diversity is everywhere and extends to every aspect of our identity, not just race.”

Q: What have been some of the most impactful diversity and inclusion programs you've seen?

A: I do think that experiential learning has the greatest potential for shifting the campus climate and there a lot of examples of successful experiential projects. Theater of the Oppressed is an interactive theater experience designed for social justice, developed by Augusto Boal in the 1970s. A scenario is played out and the content revolves around social justice issues. The fun part is that it's played again but you can replace an actor with someone from the audience. There is a high improvisational component and it offers a safe environment to explore social justice issues.

There is also a program from Denmark called the Human Library. Instead of checking out a physical book, you check out a “human book” who shares their own experiences with stereotypes and prejudices. The readers talking with the book have the ability to ask questions in a safe space. For example, maybe you've heard of the transgender bathroom issues. You can check out the human book and explore those issue a little better from someone who has personal experience with it. One of the things I enjoy the most about this is that it brings faculty, staff, students and community members together to have a dialogue.

Another experiential learning activity is a teaching strategy known as fishbowl discussions. It's fairly similar to a panel but it's set up like a fishbowl. The panel sits in the middle, having a more intimate dialogue, while the audience sits in concentric circles around them, listening, reflecting and asking questions. You can really feel the emotion in the dialogue. This program can include participants representing multiple cultures and backgrounds – but you can have ones focusing on just one historically underrepresented group.  Angela Davis, CDP, MBA - Durham Technical Community College

Q: What makes you passionate about diversity and inclusion on the community college campus?

A: Much like William Rainey Harper, the father of the community college, I too believe that all people should have access to education and employment without barriers. I am a first-generation college student in my family, and for me that meant more opportunities. So, my desire to serve as a change-agent is really a desire to serve others and to identify ways to remove barriers to access for students.

Q: What challenges have you encountered while trying to implement diversity and inclusion programs?

A: I think that one of the first challenges is that a Chief Diversity Officer, or in my case a Special Assistant for Equity and Inclusion, is something that is new in the community college system. In North Carolina, we are the third largest community college system in the U.S. with 58 community colleges, yet Durham Tech is only one of three in our system to have a role like mine.

Another challenge is helping people understand the differences between equity, diversity and inclusion.

“Diversity is about the number of minority students. Inclusion is about initiatives and having a diverse candidate pool. Equity is systemic change, addressing policies, practices and procedures that create barriers for student success. Equity is where we are trying to move.”

Q: What have been some of the most impactful diversity and inclusion programs at your college?

A: We have a phenomenal Center for the Global Learner that was established in 2009. The center fosters intercultural understanding and develops engaged global citizens. It supports the development of workforce-ready initiatives in a multinational environment and provides opportunities for our international students to enroll in our programs.

Durham Tech along with our county and city officials have also partnered with the Racial Equity Institute out of Greensborough to ensure all employees receive racial equity training, including our senior leadership. Durham Tech also partners with Achieving the Dream, a national organization that has been instrumental in providing funding for various initiatives that promote the advancement of student success. We often use a popular game that they developed called the Finish-Line , which allows college employees to walk in the shoes of 10 students, particularly low-income students and students of color, to experience the challenges that they face.

7 Tips for Fostering Diversity in Community College

Schools that stand out have invested time, money and energy into fostering diversity and inclusion in on their on- and off-campus communities. They examine the demographics of their student, faculty and staff populations and develop plans to encourage diversity. At the same time, these schools cultivate cultures of inclusivity through innovative programs, committees, clubs and new staff positions like Chief Diversity Officer. Explore these tips to turn the goal of diversity into a reality in the community college environment.

Start with a college diversity audit

A diversity audit is often the first step in creating a more diverse college campus. Through the audit, schools take a close look at the demographics of their faculty, administrators and students, as well as the composition of its leadership committees.

Real-life example:

Sinclair Community College in Ohio embarked on a diversity audit in the hopes to clearly measure how well the college is promoting diversity in everything from recruiting faculty members and administrators to student supports and community relations.

Establish a diversity committee

A diversity committee can be composed of faculty, administrators and students. This committee can conduct surveys, spearhead diversity events, develop school-wide plans, collect and circulate best practices, review policies and procedures and make recommendations when needed.

Hire a Chief Diversity Officer

A Chief Diversity Officer on a college campus can indicate a serious commitment to increased faculty and student inclusion efforts. These administrator roles can hold departments on campus accountable for their inclusivity, guiding hiring and admissions practices when necessary.

Real-life example:

While CDOs are more common at four-year colleges, many community colleges are just starting to make the investment. Minneapolis Community and Technical College is one of those. Dr. Jay Williams works at MCTC to ensure equity, inclusion and diversity are an integral part of the school's practices, procedures, policies and planning.

Support diverse student clubs

Student-led clubs are an excellent way to make diversity and inclusion a visible part of the campus culture. They can work to promote the needs of a wide variety of underrepresented groups that span race, gender, nationality, religion, sexual orientation and more.

Open a campus Diversity or Multicultural Center

A diversity center is a located on-campus with set hours of operation, like a drop-in center, and provides an all-inclusive space for students seeking information, understanding and support. A mixture of dedicated students and full-time staff can function as leaders and advocates, while multicultural events and presentations are open to the entire campus community.

Real-life example:

Normandale Community College operates a Diversity Center to foster a sense of belonging and promote dialogue. The Center is open Monday through Friday and everyone is welcome to visit.

Offer support services for minority students

Student support services for underrepresented groups help to ensure that students feel welcomed, supported and heard. While a school's number of minority students may increase, the need to retain those students and ensure their academic success is critical to maintaining a truly inclusive campus community.

Get creative with diversity education

Experiential learning helps transform the way people act, think and feel. Students actively participate in experiences and then reflect on them.

Real-life example:

Phoenix College hosts fishbowl discussions where a panel sits in the middle while the audience sits in concentric circles around them, listening, reflecting and asking questions.

Why Should Community Colleges Focus on Diversity?

Community colleges attract more underrepresented and low-income students compared to four-year colleges. Many of these students come to school facing obstacles and challenges that can put their academic success at risk. Programs that foster a sense of belonging and community, and that provide specialized support, help these students achieve their academic goals.

Prepare students for a global marketplace

Advances in technology and communication have led to rapid globalization in the marketplace. The ability to be open-minded about different lifestyles and perspectives is key to equipping students with the skills to thrive in a global work environment. Awareness of, and respect for, diversity improves collaboration between colleagues and business partners.

Increased academic engagement and critical thinking

Various studies , including one by UCLA's Higher Education Research Institute, showed that students who engaged with people from diverse backgrounds demonstrated increased active thinking, intellectual and academic engagement and motivation.

Higher satisfaction with the college experience

A national study that involved 25,000 students revealed that focusing on diversity and providing students with the opportunity to explore racial and multicultural issues increased satisfaction in most areas of the college experience.

Increased cultural awareness and understanding

A Duke University study noted that diverse interactions both in and out of the classroom, including participation in cultural clubs or organizations, helped increase cultural awareness, improved tolerance of others and heightened care and concern over international issues.

Improved leadership and communication skills

Students who are given the opportunity to interact with people from different backgrounds and engage in honest dialogue about related social justice issues demonstrate improved interpersonal skills and communication skills, both on campus and beyond .

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