Though the University opened its doors to more students than ever before this fall, many minority freshmen who were admitted didn’t accept the offer. The diversity of the student population has shown a steady yearly decline since the passage of the state’s constitutional ban on affirmative action in 2006. Making matters worse, recent economic conditions have made it more difficult for minorities, who disproportionately fall into lower-income groups, to afford a college education. In order to reverse this disturbing trend of dwindling minority enrollment, the University must provide more socioeconomic-based scholarships and improve community outreach programs to prospective students.

On Oct. 13, the University released data about this year’s enrollment statistics. Notably, the percentage of African-American, Native-American and Hispanic freshmen dropped by 11.4 percent — or 69 students — from last year. The report confirmed an increase in the number of admissions offers extended to underrepresented minorities, but more opportunities to enroll were declined.

These facts expose the negative effects the state constitutional ban on affirmative action has had on campus diversity over the past few years. Losing 11.4 percent of minority students is a substantial blow to campus diversity. With fewer and fewer minority students each year, the University increasingly becomes a place that lacks racial diversity, producing fewer students who have been exposed to different backgrounds and experiences. And the more minority students the University loses, the less this campus can appeal to future students. The result is a campus without the benefits that a broad swatch of unique and differing students bring to the intellectual and social experiences of college.

That’s not to say this wasn’t expected. The University somewhat anticipated these consequences by establishing The Center for Educational Outreach and Academic Success. The goal of the center’s outreach programs is to make favorable connections between younger primary and secondary students and the University to increase minority enrollment. But this year’s numbers show that outreach efforts are, at least in part, failing. The University must do more to convince minority students to enroll here. Its efforts should include a more pronounced role in visiting minority communities and courting students the campus needs.

Of course, there is an important underlying problem: money. Lester Monts, University senior vice provost for academic affairs, told AnnArbor.com on Oct. 13 that in interviews, minority students who declined admission referenced a lack of financial assistance. The University did its part in accepting more students from minority populations, but it didn’t succeed in convincing them that this place can be affordable. That is a major concern.

Though the University must tiptoe around restrictions on economic incentives for minorities as a result of the affirmative action ban, it should offer more scholarships to all disadvantaged students — many of which will include minorities. A well-publicized allocation of University funds to expand socioeconomic-based financial aid programs could help counteract the damage to campus diversity done by the ban and the tough economy.

Administrators have to start thinking about more aggressive measures to negate these effects from the state’s affirmative action ban. The University is rapidly losing a vital segment of its campus population, and unless it offers more financial aid and does a better job of reaching out to communities, it may lose even more minority students next year. Such losses have already gone too far.

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