Last Thursday, University President Mary Sue Coleman addressed the Board of Regents and discussed the campus climate, diversity and inclusion. Coleman implied that the University’s struggle began in earnest with the passage of Proposal 2 in 2006, which effectively banned the consideration of race in college admissions. Though it seems apparent that Proposal 2 has carried much of the blame for decreasing minority enrollment, the University shouldn’t use it as a crutch to deflect criticism, but should refocus on what options do remain to increase diversity.
Many schools — such as the University of California, the University of Texas, the University of Florida and the University of Michigan — attempt to bypass court decisions prohibiting affirmative action by recruiting students in underrepresented areas, increasing enrollment and adopting a holistic review approach that takes into consideration the challenges students have faced, instead of just their academic performance. However, since the implementation of Proposal 2, Black enrollment dropped from 7 percent of the undergraduate population in 2006 to 4.65 percent in Fall 2013. Additionally, other minorities such as Hispanic and Native American students have seen decreases in their undergraduate percentages during the same time period. With minority enrollment hindered by Proposal 2, the University has an even greater responsibility in finding new ways to increase enrollment.
The University must counteract the effects of Proposal 2 by increasing its outreach program. The creation of the associate vice president position in enrollment management is a step in the right direction as this can help garner more applications from underrepresented minorities and better connect the admissions department with financial aid. However, the University needs to take further action and increase the number of recruiters it physically sends out to economically disadvantaged regions which usually boast high minority populations. This process must start early as many students enter high school with the imbedded belief that a college education is out of reach. Encouraging students to overcome these preconceived ideas and apply to the University will create increase the number of applications from underrepresented minorities and will ideally lead to an increase in minority enrollment.
The fundamental problem of lower socioeconomic statuses also needs to be addressed in order for the University to be more appealing towards minority groups. Many students don’t apply to the University due to the cost of attendance. The numerous financial opportunities offered by the University need to be more transparent and easily accessible for prospective students. However, the current financial system needs to be fixed first. It discriminates against lower income families due to specific financial aid packs given to certain economic brackets. The University must take action to further increase minority enrollment by considering inhibiting circumstances that affect minority populations in particular. By taking these steps, the racial climate at the University will seemingly improve and the pride for diversity may continue.