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As the nation’s demographics continue to shift, Penn’s recruitment and admissions strategies may be changing with them.

At “The Case for Change in College Admissions” conference — a national summit hosted by the University of Southern California last month — deans and higher education experts made a case for increasing diversity at elite schools such as Penn.

Graduate School of Education professor Robert Zemsky, who delivered a keynote address at the conference, said Ivy League schools should start operating “more cooperatively and more collaboratively” to increase minority applicants.

“We have to get out of this numbers game where success is viewed as the number of students an admissions officer can turn down,” Zemsky said. “Top colleges should be collectively recruiting a more diverse pool of students.”

Dean of Admissions Eric Furda said that though Penn fully supports such ideas, “there’s definitely work that can be done.”

“There are a lot of high-ability students who don’t have the knowledge base to apply to a place like Penn, and it’s our responsibility to continue to identify and help those students,” he said.

Furda pointed to a few recent initiatives that have aimed to increase access for underrepresented groups.

Earlier this year, for instance, the Admissions Office partnered with Student Financial Services to redesign Penn’s financial aid brochure. The brochure now includes a glossary with basic definitions of terms like “need-blind admissions.”

Additionally, Furda said that Penn’s continued partnership with The Posse Foundation — a program which recruits students from urban schools and helps them gain admission to elite colleges — has “helped get the Penn name out to a wider variety of applicants.”

Though exact numbers have yet to be released, Furda said that the socioeconomic diversity of students admitted to the class of 2015 through early decision is considerably higher than in past years.

Regardless, Furda said, admissions officers across the country have a “broader mandate to stay true to their mission.”

However, there are several factors standing in the way of turning this mission into reality, according to David Hawkins, director of public policy and research at the National Association for College Admissions Counseling.

“There are a lot of pressures — both internal and external — that consistently box admissions officers into a corner,” Hawkins said. “The Ivy League’s desire to stay highly selective necessitates an admissions process that has a lot of negative consequences.”

Still, schools like Penn are in “a unique position” to provide services like counseling and academic support to underprivileged high-school students,” Hawkins added.

“There’s a lot of opportunity for change, and I hope that change is on its way,” he said.

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