AI & Data Science

Harnessing AI For Fairer Admissions: A Path to Equity in Higher Education

Jun 20, 2024
Key Takeaways
  • · AI can reduce inherent biases in college admissions by analyzing patterns and outcomes systematically, helping human overseers identify and correct inconsistencies in the selection process.
  • AI automates routine tasks, reduces human errors, and ensures thorough and impartial reviews of applications, benefiting underrepresented groups and democratizing access to higher education.
  • Successful AI integration requires transparency, accountability, fair data practices, and ongoing staff training, ensuring that AI augments human decision making while promoting equity and inclusion in admissions.

In the evolving landscape of higher education, the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) into college admissions processes has sparked a significant debate. Some fear that AI will perpetuate existing biases. In truth, AI is fallible, just like humans. If we don’t question its outputs, or worse, if we unconsciously add our own implicit biases into the tool, then it does have the potential to preserve prejudiced thinking.

However, when AI is designed and deployed responsibly, it can actually enhance fairness, efficiency, and accessibility in admissions. By adhering to responsible AI principles, institutions can leverage the technology to foster equal access to higher education, thereby addressing long-standing equitability concerns in college admissions.

Addressing Bias in College Admissions With AI

One of the most pressing issues in college admissions is the inherent bias that can influence the selection process. Historical data and subjective criteria often lead to skewed decisions, sometimes at the expense of deserving candidates. AI, when trained with a diverse set of data and monitored for fairness, can help mitigate these biases.

By systematically analyzing patterns and outcomes, AI tools can highlight inconsistencies and biases in admissions decisions, prompting human overseers to reevaluate and adjust their processes. This capacity to identify and correct biases at scale is pivotal in striving toward more equitable admissions practices.

AI Applications in Higher Education Admissions

The question of how to improve the college admissions process is complex, involving multiple stakeholders and various operational challenges. AI can streamline admissions by automating routine tasks, such as data entry and initial application screening. This not only speeds up the

process, but also reduces human errors that can lead to biased decisions. AI can also analyze tremendous amounts of data to locate trends and insights that human analysts might overlook. For instance, AI applications can predict enrollment likelihood based on past applicant behavior, helping institutions tailor their outreach efforts more effectively and efficiently.

AI also plays a crucial role in democratizing access to higher education. By automating and optimizing the initial screening and evaluation stages, AI systems ensure that every application is reviewed thoroughly and impartially, based on the merits of the data provided rather than subjective human judgment. This is particularly beneficial for people from underrepresented groups who may not traditionally excel in more subjective aspects of the application but have the potential to succeed academically.

Additionally, AI-driven analytics can help institutions identify gaps in their applicant pools, prompting them to engage in targeted outreach programs to encourage a more diverse range of applicants, thereby promoting equal access. For example, the University of Pittsburgh School of Law admissions team used Liaison Othot’s predictive analytics to increase diversity by 7% for the incoming class. The school experienced its best admissions year after leveraging Othot’s AI capabilities in relation to LSAT scores, GPAs, and gender-based demographics.

AI’s potential extends beyond individual admissions decisions. It offers strategic advantages to higher education administrators by providing actionable insights into the entire admissions landscape. AI can help institutions understand which recruitment strategies are most effective, which academic programs are attracting the most qualified applicants, and how changes in admission criteria might affect the diversity of the student body. This holistic understanding enables administrators to make informed decisions that align with their strategic goals, enhancing both institutional effectiveness and student success.

Implementing Responsible AI Principles

The successful integration of AI into higher education admissions hinges on adhering to responsible AI principles. This involves ensuring that AI systems are transparent, accountable, and free from biases that could lead to unfair student outcomes. Implementing clear data collection practices, defining algorithms explicitly, and ensuring open decision-making processes based on the algorithms are all critical steps to achieving transparency. Straightforward data storage practices and fair usage policies are also important and should be consistently applied across different university departments and functions.

Institutions must commit to ongoing training so staff can fully understand AI tools and their implications. It is also crucial to engage in continuous dialogue with stakeholders, including prospective students, about how AI is used and the measures in place to safeguard against its misuse.

Remember, AI shouldn’t replace human decision makers but rather augment their ability to make more informed and fair decisions. By combining AI insights with human expertise, institutions can ensure that their admissions processes are not only more efficient, but also genuinely attuned to the principles of equity and inclusion

This approach aligns with the broader goals of responsible AI usage in higher education, where AI tools are employed to streamline operations and advance a commitment to fairness and transparency in admissions. Such a strategy addresses biases while enhancing trust in the admissions process, reassuring all stakeholders—from applicants to regulatory bodies—of the institution’s commitment to fairness and equity. This dual focus on efficiency and ethical responsibility helps build a more trustworthy and inclusive admissions environment, fostering a positive perception among all participants in the educational process.

Embracing Responsible AI for Greater Fairness and Efficiency in Admissions

While concerns about the use of AI in college admissions are valid, they can be addressed through thoughtful implementation and rigorous oversight. By embracing responsible AI principles, higher education institutions can enhance the fairness and efficiency of their admissions processes, thereby providing equal access to potential students from all backgrounds. AI is not just a technological tool but a transformative opportunity for the admissions landscape, promising a future where technology and human insight work in harmony to advance a more equitable and inclusive educational environment.

To learn more about how to use AI responsibly and effectively in admissions, request a demo of Liaison’s Othot platform today.


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Over the last three decades, Liaison has helped over 40,000 programs on more than 1,200 campuses more effectively manage admissions through its Centralized Application Service (CAS™) technology and complementary application processing and support services. The higher education technology leader supports its partner institutions’ total enrollment goals by pairing CAS with its Enrollment Marketing (EM) platform as well as the recently acquired TargetX (CRM) and advanced analytics software Othot.