April 22, the United States Supreme Court ruled that Michigan’s ban on affirmative action was constitutional. Therefore, in order to increase diversity at the University, administrators must explore alternative routes. Jennifer Gratz, the plaintiff in Gratz v. Bollinger, suggested methods for the University to increase racial diversity in a recent Detroit Free Press article. Gratz provides seven suggestions, including eliminating legacy preference, cutting unnecessary costs to increase need-based scholarships and providing outreach programs for students without access to substantial, educational resources. If the University truly desires diversity, the administration should incorporate some of these suggestions into its programs and policies.
Affirmative action is banned based on the idea that discrimination of any kind, including racial, is an unacceptable means of student admission. Following this logic, admissions should avoid all forms of prejudicial treatment, yet they reward students for familial attachments to the University. This policy assists students for reasons outside academics. Eliminating this unfair policy would consequentially increase diversity because often people of color and lower socioeconomic statuses represent an infinitesimal small proportion of applicants with legacy privilege.
Similarly, cutting administrative expenses could redirect funds to help make need-based scholarships larger for low socioeconomic students. Currently, the University hires 53 percent more administrators than faculty. This unnecessarily high administrative staff contains numerous high-salaried employees. On April 20, numerous faculty members confirmed the administrations exuberant salaries, stating in a letter to the Board of Regents that administrative pay is inappropriately high in comparison to other institutions.
While the University cannot admit applicants based on race, they can provide services to encourage and assist people of color. The University can enhance their mentorship programs in locations with high proportions of minorities. Since many of these areas contain intelligent students that don’t possess the resources for educational success, these programs could help equalize the disadvantages underprivileged students face through mentorship and community engagement. These mentors can provide insights about educational opportunities, give insights into applying to the University and encourage gifted students to apply.
While mentorship could help students, it’s important to note that K-12 education needs better funding in order for the University to increase minority enrollment, especially in underprivileged geographic areas. Though Republican Gov. Rick Snyder proposed a $322 million budget increase for K-12 funding in February, the proposed monetary increase is not enough. Spikes in retirement costs have deterred school districts from being able to utilize the money for student purposes. Addressing underlying funding concerns could increase the number of applications the University receives from people of color and lower socioeconomic statuses by creating a more level playing field early in the educational system.