University receives 'F' grade on racial equity in public university study

Wednesday, September 26, 2018 - 12:54pm

In a report on racial equity at public universities released Tuesday by the University of Southern California, the University of Michigan received an F grade in representation of Black students on campus.

In a report on racial equity at public universities released Tuesday by the University of Southern California, the University of Michigan received an F grade in representation of Black students on campus. Buy this photo
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In a report on racial equity at public universities released Tuesday by the University of Southern California, the University of Michigan received an F grade in representation of Black students on campus.

While 17 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds in the state of Michigan are Black, Black students constitute only 4.4 percent of the University’s undergraduate student population. The Black graduation rate — for which the University received a C grade — is also 12.1 percent lower than the overall completion rate.

Black enrollment at the University is less than half the national average of 9.8 percent. The study includes data on every four-year, non-specialized, public postsecondary institution in the nation, and F grades represent the bottom quintile of equity scores.

The University’s Ann Arbor campus received an overall score of 2.5 out of 4, which was the highest of any university or college in the state. Across all states, however, Michigan had the fifth lowest equity index in the nation.

The “50-state report card” measured racial equity for Black students across all public universities in the United States using four indicators: the difference between the Black student population and the proportion of college-age Black people in the state, the gender makeup of Black students versus the gender makeup of the student body as a whole, the 6-year graduation rates for Black students versus those for all students and the ratio of Black students to Black professors.

Despite recent measures dedicated to lowering economic barriers of attendance including the Go Blue Guarantee, HAIL Scholars and Wolverine Pathways, Black student enrollment at the University has hovered near 4 percent in the last half decade. Last year’s enrollment report showed the class of 2022 slightly decreased in Black representation.  

In gender equity, the University received an A grade. The Black student population at the University is 58.8 percent women and 41.2 percent men, while nationally the percentages are 52 and 48, respectively.

In a 2016 interview, University President Mark Schlissel said he did not foresee any immediate large-scale changes in racial and socioeconomic diversity due to the recent program rollouts.

“There won’t be as big a leap this year as there was last year,” he said after the release of the 2016 enrollment report. “It’s the kind of thing that will continue to bounce up and down year by year, but it’s important the overall trajectory is upward.”

The University also received an A grade in the ratio of Black students to Black faculty, which was 7 to 1. However, Black faculty are still more underrepresented than Black students, constituting only 2.6 percent of the University’s 7,022 full-time faculty.

Under-enrollment has been a long-standing point of contention for the Black campus community. Campus groups like the Black Student Union have proposed various steps for the University to take toward racial equity since the Black Action Movements of the 1970s. Historic measures include increasing housing affordability and admissions policies similar to the state of Texas’s “top 10 percent rule,” which guarantees admission to all state universities for students who graduate in the top 10 percent of their high school class. After a statewide ban on affirmative action in 2006, minority enrollment at the University has failed to rebound.

History professor Matthew Countryman estimated that the ban on affirmative action discluded approximately 860 African Americans, 133 Latino/as and 56 Native Americans from admission to the University in the years 2007 to 2016.

The USC study does not include measures of campus climate, but a sample University survey reported Black and Hispanic students are more likely to experience discrimination on campus at rates 519 and 132 percent higher than white students, respectively.