The student enrollment statistics for fall
2004 were released last week. Confirming what a number of
preliminary indications have shown, the number of black students is
falling. Last year, 410 black undergraduate students enrolled as
part of the freshman class. This year, even with the 9 percent
increase in freshman enrollment, the number of black students who
enrolled dropped drastically to 350.

Beth Dykstra

This does not appear to be an anomaly — since the fall of
2001 when 9 percent of the students enrolled were black, the
percentage of freshman black students enrolling has been decreasing
every year because of the decline in the percentage of blacks in
the freshman classes. Clearly this is troubling, especially after a
long legal fight to preserve diversity at the University.

The total number of new freshmen is a record high of 6,040
— almost 9 percent higher than that last year’s
freshman enrollment. Accordingly, the number of Hispanics, Native
Americans and international students have all increased
significantly. One statistic that bucks the trend though, is the
number of black students enrolled — down 15 percent compared
to last year’s black student enrollment.

One possible reason for this decline is the new application
process. It relies more heavily on essays, which may have
discouraged individuals from applying. Another possible explanation
is the sour economy, which has hit minorities especially hard. This
would help explain why a large number of colleges also experienced
a drop in black student enrollment this year, not just the
University.

Even ignoring the this year’s drop, the percentage of
black students at the University is not high enough. The average
percentage of black students enrolled in the last six years is
around 7.8 percent. This is in sharp contrast to the fact that 14
percent of Michigan’s population is black and the fact that
13 percent of nation’s population is black.

It appears that even with affirmative action, the percentage of
black students does not even approach the state or national
population percentage.

The University has pledged its commitment to reverse the trend.
In her State of the University address, University President Mary
Sue Coleman promised renewed recruitment efforts in minority
districts. Centers such as the William Monroe Trotter House also
help to make minorities feel welcome on campus, which is important
in order to recruit more minorities. And in this regard, the
University could make efforts to establish other such centers or
organizations.

A truly diverse student body is indeed something worth striving
for. The changeover from the old admissions system was bound to
come with some glitches, and these statistics, though not cause for
panic, should prompt swift and effective action from the
University.

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