University enrolls more diverse freshman class in 2015

Monday, October 12, 2015 - 9:40am

The percentage of underrepresented minorities in this year’s freshman class is the highest since 2005, according to enrollment figures released by the University early Monday morning.

Underrepresented minority students represent 12.8 percent of the 2015 freshman class, a 2.8-percent increase over last fall’s entering cohort. Minority students accounted for 13.8 percent of the incoming class in 2005, the year before Michigan voters banned the use of affirmative action in the admissions process.

The percentage of Black, Hispanic and Native American students all increased over last year.

The undergraduate student body and overall students saw less drastic increases in diversity. The percentage of Black undergraduate students increased by .15 percent and the percentage of Black students overall increased by .19 percent.

Total enrollment this fall stands at 43,651, an increase of .06 percent (26 students) from last year’s overall enrollment.

Undergraduate enrollment, however, decreased by 83 students, marking a .3-percent decrease.  Meanwhile, the number of graduate and professional students on campus increased by .7 percent (109 students).

The freshman class decreased by more than 400 students since last year, representing the smallest incoming class size since 2008, when the class size was 5,783 students.

Last year, University Provost Martha Pollack outlined a plan to curb over-enrollment after the University enrolled 500 more students than intended for the freshman class.

“We have been over-enrolling every year for the past five years and we have to stop this,” Pollack said at a September 2014 Board of Regents meeting. “I'm not happy about it.”

With the highest proportion of underrepresented minority students in a freshman class in 10 years, enrollment numbers saw significant gains toward a more diversified student body.

In the freshman class alone, the number of Black students admitted increased by 58 students — a community which made up 3.84 percent of the freshman class in 2014 and 5.11 percent of the class in 2015. In the state of Michigan, 14.3 percent of the population is Black.

“The campus — admissions, financial aid, recruitment teams and our partners across the university — worked together in response to the charge to achieve our target class size and find ways, consistent with state law, to bring further diversity to our student body with this class," Kedra Ishop, associate vice president for enrollment management, wrote in a press release. "We are pleased with the progress and want to continue our forward momentum in 2016.”

University President Mark Schlissel said in an interview with the Daily last month that he expected to see improvement within the student body’s diversity enrollment as early as this semester, a reflection of the University’s effort to package financial aid awards with admission decisions.

The University received a record number of applicants this year and admitted 26.24 percent of those applicants. This fall, 6,071 students of the 13,584 admitted actually enrolled into the University, resulting in a 45-percent yield.

In-state students represent more of the student body this year, making up 57 percent of students this year compared to 55 percent of students last fall. The University accepted 50 percent of in-state student applications, while only accepting 20 percent of out-of-state applicants. There were 31,573 more out-of-state applications than in-state applications.

With regard to socioeconomic diversity, the percentage of freshmen eligible for Federal Pell Grants rose by 1.1 percent from last fall. First-generation students make up 8.5 percent of the incoming class, and low-income students make up 10.2 percent of the class.

According to a press release, the University continues to invest more money in financial aid than ever before, increasing aid to undergraduate, need-based financial aid by 8.1 percent since last year.

The increases in underrepresented minority enrollment come in wake of an eventful two years, during which members of the University’s Black Student Union called on the University to increase Black enrollment and improve campus climate. 

Kinesiology senior Capri’Nara Kendall, the BSU speaker, said while the enrollment figures signal a positive change, the University’s work to improve diversity and inclusion on campus is nowhere near complete.

“58 is just not enough,” she said, referring to the increase in the number of Black freshmen enrolled in 2015 compared to the previous year.

Kendall attributes campus climate issues to the reason why many accepted minority students decline their offers of admission to the University.

“When I was being recruited during high school, students would come back to talk about Michigan and the first thing they would say is it’s racist, and I was kinda blindsided because the whole time Detroit-area admissions was recruiting from my high school,” Kendall said.  "They never told me about the microaggressions or the campus climate. They just said ‘we’re the leaders and the best and we want you here.’ When I got here it was a totally different story.”

Kendall said she would like the underrepresented minority population to increase more significantly.

“Talk to me when minority enrollment is out of the four percent – when we’re looking at more of a seven percent enrollment for African Americans,” she said. “When we’re looking at more of a seven percent enrollment for Latino students.”

She added she hopes for Native American/Pacific Islander enrollment to increase as well.

Still, Kendall commended Schlissel’s efforts to increase diversity and inclusion on campus, and said she looks forward to seeing the long-term impact of his work.  

“I’m excited to see where the University is going,” she said. “I’m trying my best not to be too critical of the University because I understand that this is a big issue. I understand that this is not something that’s going to be solved overnight.”

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