In its crusade to maintain diversity, the University has a new technological ally. The Descriptor Plus software program uses demographic information to identify geographic areas and high schools that are underrepresented in the University’s student population. The software can make the University’s lofty goals for minority recruitment attainable, even in the face of Proposal 2.
Descriptor Plus is a software program created by the College Board that divides areas into different clusters based on factors such as the average annual income and the percentage of minority students. The service also creates high school clusters that compare the quality of education to the socioeconomic and racial makeup of students.
Since September, the admissions office has used the software to prevent a decline in minority enrollment. Despite its use of minority population percentage in determining what cluster a particular neighborhood goes in, this method does not take the race of individual candidates into account and should be able to withstand litigation.
Despite past efforts to diversify campus, the Descriptor Plus statistics reveal that 75 percent of all students who attend the University come from only five of the 30 clusters. Clusters with a high proportion of minorities and lower-income populations are the least represented on campus.
For instance, one cluster includes households with an average income of $42,600. Seventy-one percent of this cluster is composed of minorities, but this group only accounts for 3 percent of the current student body. Statistics like this reflect a failure in campus diversity, despite efforts to combat racial and socioeconomic uniformity.
The University has the opportunity to use this new software to target the 25 underrepresented clusters and boost enrollment from these groups. Instead of limiting the program’s use to the admissions process, the University can also use this information to create a more focused outreach program.
Now that the University has these statistics, it is time to move forward with its recruiting. Sending administrators and alums into these underrepresented areas is a valuable recruiting tactic that the University should intensify immediately.
The geographic targeting approach embodied by the Descriptor Plus program was one of the recommendations of the University’s Diversity Blueprints task force, which held a corresponding forum last week. The forum was intended to address the concerns and opinions of students; many feel that the recommendations of the task force are too vague.
Yet only 10 students attended, largely because the forum was held on North Campus on a Wednesday morning. The timing of the forum unfortunately suggests that the University is striving for image rather than meaningful input. If the administration really wants student insight, it must make the Diversity Blueprints forums well-publicized and accessible to students.
The Blueprints report attempts to address the University’s response to Proposal 2 by discussing different strategies of recruiting minority students. With tools like the Descriptor Plus program, the Blueprints report has the potential to be extremely effective in combating that much-feared drop in minority enrollment – provided students are able to attend its forums.