According to recently released preliminary statistics, it looks as if the University’s efforts to increase minority enrollment have been at least a partial success. With the Office of Undergraduate Admissions seeing a 10.5 percent increase in underrepresented minority applicants this academic year, it appears the University is on the path to recovery from last year’s embarrassingly low numbers. While the University should be commended for reaching out to surrounding minority populations, it would be premature for the administration to celebrate these statistics. The University still has a long way to go in improving minority enrollment, and these outreach efforts, in combination with retention efforts, must continue to ensure the University maintains its reputation as a pillar of academic diversity.
General applications to the University are up 13 percent, so it can be assumed that minority applications would rise proportionally. While it is encouraging that minorities seem to be keeping up with the overall admissions trends, these numbers do not offset the steep decline from last year. Black applicants alone were down 25 percent last year, and in comparison, this 10.5 increase is relatively small. Minority applications are up from last year, but these numbers are not the strong rebound the University needed to combat the sharp decrease in minority enrollment of the previous academic year.
Due to the unexpected drop in underrepresented minority enrollment during the previous academic year, the University needed to take action in order to have the diversity the University prides itself on. These statistics suggest the University is headed in the right direction, but it appears the road to recovery will be slow. Considering the University’s consistent efforts to reach out to the surrounding minority population over the past year, the admissions office would ideally like to have seen a dramatic increase in minority applicants. University President Mary Sue Coleman has been so active in minority recruitment efforts that anything less than this relatively small increase would have been a severe disappointment.
Compounding the University’s minority recruitment drive is its need to retain a positive image in the minority community. If minority students view the University as unaffordable due to a rise in tuition or unwelcoming due to the press surrounding the affirmative action case and the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, these factors will discourage qualified minority students from applying. The administration also has a responsibility to minority students once they are accepted and enrolled in the University. The University must provide a supportive environment for minority students to ensure they succeed. Coleman must focus her efforts not only on recruitment, but also to seeing that the overall experience and graduation rate of minority students improves. Improving retention efforts should also help contribute to recruitment efforts, as minorities will know they can succeed at the University once they are accepted.
While the rise in minority applicants this year is a small success, the University is far from obtaining its goal of stabilizing and enhancing minority enrollment. These numbers are proportionally in line with the rise in general applications, and in addition, are only a small recuperation in terms of last year’s drop. The numbers do offer encouragement that the University is on the path to regaining its stable minority population; however, the administration must not let down its guard. If the University continues to reach out to the minority population and work to improve the undergraduate minority experience, over time the University will recover from last year’s drop in minority enrollment.