2023 Higher Education Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Survey

As heightened political polarization threatens to eclipse many higher education DEI efforts, college and university leaders are more challenged than ever to deliver on the promise of equal education. In June 2023, Hanover conducted a survey of over 1,000 undergraduates (ages 18–24) in the United States to understand student perceptions of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) at colleges and universities. 

Despite political challenges to DEI initiatives in many states across the U.S., college students maintain their support for campus DEI efforts, particularly in relation to fostering student belonging. Students continue to expect institutions to support students from diverse backgrounds and safeguard all students’ academic and personal success. 

Our 2023 Higher Education Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Survey offers new insights about what is working at institutions and what must be improved to address equity gaps, belonging, and connection on campus. The findings include: 

  • A two-year decline in student perceptions of institutional support for DEI 
  • A decline in students’ belief that topics relevant to DEI are prominent in their coursework  
  • Striking disparities when disaggregated by race, gender identity, sexual orientation, and institution type 
  • A consistent number of students who feel they must change or hide an aspect of their identity to fit in at their institution 

“Despite any political pressures or limitations, higher education leaders must continue to use data to drive DEI-related decisions. While most leaders know DEI efforts are an important and necessary component of equal educational outcomes, they don’t always measure how students feel about it. Without student input, they could be missing important aspects in their DEI work or fail to achieve meaningful results.” 

Increased Challenges to Higher Education DEI Programs

While many U.S. colleges and universities face pressure to accelerate their DEI outcomes, they are simultaneously being confronted with increased political challenges to equity-focused programs, curricula, and services. From state bans on college DEI initiatives to the Supreme Court ruling on race-conscious admissions, and renewed scrutiny around free speech, there is an urgency from all sides for institutions to navigate DEI with a student-first approach. 

Hanover Research is dedicated to helping institutions understand student perspectives on educational inequities. These 2023 survey findings highlight how student experiences differ across populations and across institution types. They provide an important thematic snapshot — at a national level — of how college students view their institutions’ support for DEI, diversity in coursework, respect for different identities, and campus climate in terms of belonging, safety, and support for all students. 

As colleges and universities strive to meet the needs of a diverse student body, building an inclusive, equitable campus community has never been more important. One of the most effective ways institutions can foster DEI is by using data to inform their approaches.

As higher education DEI efforts are being challenged, college and university students expect institutions to do more to ensure equitable education.

Use data to inform your 2023–24 DEI plans

Download the report to identify how to improve your institution’s DEI strategy in 2023 and beyond.

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