Recently released figures indicate that
this fall’s incoming freshman class will likely contain more
white and fewer black students than last year’s. There are
several possible causes for the drop in minority representation in
the incoming class, and it is currently too early to tell whether
this drop is permanent or merely an anomaly. However, this class is
the first to use the new application process that the University
developed to comply with last year’s Supreme Court decision,
which upheld the use of race as a factor in collegiate admissions,
but overturned the previous point-based system. As such, the drop
is a troubling indicator that the new admissions system could
potentially be interfering with the University’s commitment
to diversity.

Mira Levitan

Applications to Michigan were down across the board: 25 percent
fewer African-American applicants, 20 percent fewer whites, a 13
percent drop in Hispanic applicants and 8.5 percent fewer Native
American applicants. Part of this drop may reflect economic
insecurities amongst potential students and their families, who
may, for instance, be more likely to consider attending a local
community college for the first two years to save on room and
board. However, it would be difficult to argue that the new
application process did not also contribute to the overall drop in
applications. The new application is 26 pages long and requires
applicants to write four essays. This is a far more rigorous
procedure than the short form and one generic essay required of
previous applicants.

The intensity of the new application ensures that the University
will attract a more dedicated group of applicants. Students who are
considering the University as a “backup” school are far
less likely to fill out a 26-page application that those whose
blood already runs maize and blue. Indeed, the incoming freshman
class could be the largest in the University’s history, as
there has been an overall increase in the numbers of admitted
students who choose to enroll.

However, there is a troubling racial disparity amongst
matriculated students: While enrollment deposits are up 8 percent
amongst white students, they are down 13 percent amongst blacks. It
is too early to tell why this might be the case. Perhaps the
University is attracting a more elite set of minority applicants,
who choose to attend other schools; perhaps, since minority
students are more likely to come from socio-economically
disadvantaged families, fewer are able to afford a University
education given the state of the economy.

The current picture of the incoming class is troubling, but not
yet cause for alarm. It is impossible to tell from one year’s
statistics what precisely caused drops in minority representation
in the incoming class. Some of the potential causes, such as
confusion over the court rulings, may be temporary. Others are
largely beyond the University’s control: Other than offering
the most extensive financial aid possible, there is little the
University can do to offset the decisions students and their
families make in hard economic times. In light of the current drop
in minority enrollment, however, it is imperative that University
administrators and the admissions office increase their vigilance
and watch closely in future years to determine whether the new
admissions procedure or any other University actions or policies
could be leading to a long-term drop in minority enrollment.

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