A diverse student body is an important aspect of a university. But in spite of having several thousand students on campus, the University population fails to represent the country’s diversity. The University’s Office of the Registrar released figures last month regarding the demographics of the University’s student population. The underrepresented minority enrollment rate increased by 1.5 percent for this year. An increase in the number of underrepresented minority students is an achievement for the University. But the enrollment rate still remains lower than it should be. Efforts should be made to reach out to — and retain — underrepresented minorities.
In a Oct. 25 article in the Daily, it was revealed that underrepresented minority enrollment as well as overall enrollment was up this year. Reactions from campus revealed in a Nov. 15 Daily article that the Office of Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs — more commonly referred to as MESA — has met with University officials over the past year to discuss ways to more actively recruit underrepresented minority students and encourage them to enroll at the University if accepted. Other organizations focused on increasing enrollment of underrepresented students have proposed that by offering more application fee waivers, scholarships and financial aid, these rates may increase further. There have been concerns that the banning of affirmative action in 2006 is one of the reasons for low underrepresented minority student enrollment at the University.
This is the first year since 2003 that the University has seen an increase in underrepresented minority student enrollment, according to an Oct. 25 Daily article. The increase may reflect the increased recruitment outreach to underrepresented minorities. It could also be because this year the University saw the largest enrollment in its history and a recent change in the way that ethnicity figures are collected. Regardless of the specific reasons for the increase in minority student enrollment, the University should continue increasing minority figures by working with campus groups to reach out to these students.
Though the increase in underrepresented minority student enrollment is a success, improvements can still be made. With the University seeing its highest enrollment numbers to date this year, minority students remain a disproportionally small percentage of the student population. The University should continue to devote resources to bringing underrepresented minority students to Ann Arbor. MESA, members of the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, the Office of the Provost and the Center for Educational Outreach have been working together to increase minority recruitment. Multicultural groups have also been active in encouraging underrepresented minority students to apply to the University. These efforts should be maintained so that these students continue enrolling in the University.
But increasing acceptance rates for underrepresented minorities is a hollow victory if these students continue to have low matriculation and graduation rates. There was a gap of about 19 percent between the graduation rates of black and white students here at the University between 2001 and 2006, according to a 2008 Education Sector report. The University should work with MESA and student groups throughout campus to create a stronger support system to help these students make it to commencement.
Even though the University saw an increase in underrepresented minority enrollment this year, more can be done to improve diversity on campus. The University should continue to work to attract underrepresented minority students — and keep them through graduation.