While the University may claim to hold a strong commitment to diversity, its actions haven’t always supported that claim. A recent study by The Education Trust group found that the University of Michigan was one of several universities where levels of accessibility and success of minority and low-income students is ono the decline. Though many of these public universities, including the University, assert that they value diversity, the study shows that they aren’t backing up their words with action. A diverse student body is important to a comprehensive learning environment and the University must act upon its declared commitment to diversity by increasing minority outreach programs and directing financial aid to those who need it most.
The report, which was released last week, rated the accessibility of financial aid to minority and low-income students at public universities from 2004 to 2008. The Education Trust group revealed that in recent years, many public universities, including the University, were awarding more financial aid to well-off students and less support was being given to students of low-income backgrounds. As reported by the Daily last week, the study identified the University as one of the worst public institutions in the nation for its decreased accessibility to financial aid.
Part of the worth of attending a large university is that students gain knowledge of a diverse population. But with racial diversity at the University continuing to decline, students are losing a valuable opportunity to learn. And it’s a slippery slope — as diversity decreases, the University is less appealing to a diverse group of students.
Officials at the University have claimed that they are doing everything in their power to foster diversity, according to a Daily interview with University Senior Vice Provost of Academic Affairs Lester Monts. But since the ban of affirmative action at public universities in Michigan in 2006, the University has clearly faced new challenges. But its responses haven’t translated into success. There have been outreach initiatives by University officials within the past year like the Wolverine Outreach Workshop held in Detroit in late 2009, but these programs haven’t produced the desired results — minority figures at the University have dropped every year since 2006. The University needs to scale up existing programs and investigate new ways to attract a diverse student body.
But the real shock of the Education Trust group’s study was that the University has been, in recent years, giving more money to wealthier students. It’s alarming to learn that the University hasn’t been directing as much aid as possible to the low-income students who actually depend upon it to pay for tuition. There is no acceptable explanation for spending less on students with more need and giving more to students who don’t actually require aid. The Office of Financial Aid has a responsibility to ensure that the students who need aid the most have access to it. The office should redouble its efforts to offer more aid to low-income students.
The University must remember that proof is in results, not rhetoric. It needs to increase outreach and aid to minority and low-income students to make sure that the next time a financial aid study is published, it isn’t at the bottom of the rankings.