A committee formed in the wake of the passage of November’s affirmative action ban issued its final report yesterday, calling for the University to increase recruiting efforts and quicken the turnaround on admissions and financial aid decisions in hopes of preventing a drop in the enrollment of underrepresented minorities.
The 19-page report was compiled by the Diversity Blueprints Task Force, which was formed in November by University President Mary Sue Coleman.
The report does not contain one plan meant to single-handedly keep minority enrollment steady.
Instead, most of the proposals involve expanding the scope of programs and policies already used at the University or ones that have been tried in other states with affirmative action bans.
“Both California and Washington state have done this,” said Anthony England, associate dean for academic affairs, one of the committee’s 55 members. “There is a lot of similarity between the things that we are proposing and what they did.”
The report says that the University should work to improve its image among high school students, especially those who might not see themselves as future University of Michigan students.
The report urges the University to “Expand engagement in targeted partnerships with underserved K-12 schools, on-campus high school counselor partnerships, and programs that provide college preparation and financial aid education.”
Senior Vice Provost Lester Monts, who co-chaired the committee, said such partnerships will help the University not also attract a wider range of students, but they will encourage more students to think about attending college in general.
“Many of the students we will be dealing with in many of our K-12 projects and initiatives are not students who are going to come to the University of Michigan,” Monts said. “But those programs will actually inspire students to want to attend college.”
In one of the more concrete proposals in the report, the committee suggests increasing partnerships with “underserved” schools that could serve as pipelines to the University.
The report calls for the University to offer financial aid packages to admitted students soon after they receive their acceptance letter because early financial aid offers increase the chances an admitted student will choose to come to Ann Arbor.
“We are now making our financial aid awards (available) right after the admissions decision is made,” Monts said. “In the past, there was a lapse in time, and we believe that we have lost students in that process.”
But this idea is not new; the University has been working to expedite financial aid decisions since it began using new financial aid forms last spring – a fact that the report acknowledges. In an October interview, University spokeswoman Julie Peterson said the University had launched an aggressive strategy to get students to apply earlier and make financial aid awards earlier.
One of the nine sections of the report calls for the University to “be aware of the role of campus climate in the decision-making process of prospective faculty staff and students.”
Although it mentions some programs that could be expanded, the report doesn’t go into detail about how to encourage interaction between different ethnic groups on a campus that many students consider to be widely self-segregated.
The report rarely mentions underrepresented minorities – instead calling for diversity – but Monts said at least some of the programs would encourage underrepresented minorities to apply to the University.
The report also suggests making it easier for students to transfer to the University.
But the report also says schools faced with affirmative action bans in the past have had limited success enrolling transfer students, saying that schools had “surprisingly low return on transfer student strategies.”
Currently, it is very easy for students from other Big Ten schools to transfer into the University, said Political Science Prof. Scott Page, who first suggested the creation of Diversity Blueprints to Coleman in November.
“But all the students at other Big Ten schools are white,” said Page, a committee member. “So here is a special program for white students from the Midwest.”
The report recommended expanding programs that encourage “low- to moderate- income” community college students to transfer to the University.
The report painted broad strokes, offering few specific ways to implement the programs it suggests or achieve the goals it lays out.
Peterson said that would come later.
“Today’s report is a synthesis and summary of the hundreds of pages of material produced by the Task Force and its subcommittees,” Peterson said in a written statement. “The complete set of materials, including detailed recommendations from the subcommittees, will be made available to all those individuals and groups responsible for implementation, and will be available to the public at the Bentley Historical Library.”