Diversity is one of the most prominent buzzwords that the University uses in its recruitment process. Efforts are constantly made to more actively recruit underrepresented minorities to the University and to improve retention and matriculation rates. However, socioeconomic diversity is one type of diversity that tends to be forgotten. Many students are unaware of the resources available that make higher education more financially viable and, with rising tuition, they are priced out of education. The University is beginning to advertise financial aid options, and this should continue in order to effectively diversify the student body.
According to an April 14 Michigan Daily article, the 50 universities with the largest endowments — which includes the University of Michigan — fail to attract low-income students and adequately meet their financial needs. While the University has worked to attract ethnic and racial minorities, the number of Pell Grant recipients who apply has fallen in recent years. Pell Grants are federally subsidized grants for college tuition for students whose family incomes are less than $40,000 a year.
The 50 universities in the nation with the biggest endowments each have a lower Pell Grant-eligible student population than the national average. The University’s 12.8 percent of Pell Grant recipients in the student body, however, is even below the 50 universities’ average of 15 percent. The University cannot tout diversity as one of its main virtues when this important demographic is underrepresented.
According to the same Daily article, the University receives relatively similar numbers of ACT scores from low-income and high-income applicants. However, among those who send scores, more high-income applicants later apply to the University. Many potential applicants don’t apply because they assume they would pay full tuition, which wouldn’t be financially feasible. Obviously, the University cannot force anyone to apply or enroll. However, it can make more of an effort to inform low-income students of the financial aid that is available. Pell Grants, along with other scholarships and financial aid opportunities, must be more clearly advertised.
Fortunately, University officials have begun the process of improving efforts to market the University better to low-income students. The University has created a marketing office within the Office of Undergraduate Admissions to inform academically qualified students that the University wants to make it financially possible for them to attend. This is an encouraging first step toward increasing the number of low-income students attending the University.
It’s important that the admissions office actually enacts these changes and increases the number of low-income students at the University. The new marketing office must implement a concrete strategy if real change is going to occur.
The University should continue its efforts to advertise among low-income students starting in middle school, so there is more incentive to apply to the University. Higher education is getting more and more expensive each year, but it’s crucial that qualified students can always find a way to make a University education financially viable. The University’s efforts to advertise these opportunities are a positive step toward making that goal a reality.