Seven months ago, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the
University’s undergraduate admissions policy, forcing
officials to create an entirely new application within the span of
a few months. In what may be related news, the University’s
current number of minority applications is down 23 percent from
this time last year. While this statistic may prove to be
meaningless as the last group of applications are processed, if the
gap persists following the end of the application period, the
University will be forced to recognize its significance. In
preparation of this possibility, the University should begin
brainstorming programs that would be aimed at restoring diversity
among future applicant classes.

Julie Pannuto

Minority applications have not been the only ones to decrease
thus far; overall applications are down 18 percent as well. The
real worry, however, becomes the 5 percent difference between these
two statistics. According to the University’s Center for
Statistical Consultation and Research, the drop in the proportion
of minority applicants is statistically significant. What this
means is that, in comparison to the decrease in overall
applications, this year’s proportion of minority applicants
is significantly lower than last year’s. Nonetheless, it is
important to note that the decrease in minority applications is
significant only as of now. The five percent disparity could, and
hopefully will, change by the time the University has finished
reviewing all of its applications. Because the deadline was Feb. 1,
the University still has thousands more applications to process
before it can definitively announce the final numbers.

If the decrease does remain significant, there are a number of
possible causes for it. In rewriting its affirmative action policy,
the University replaced its point-based admissions system with one
that includes short-answer questions and an optional essay. The new
application is more difficult and more time-consuming than the
previous one, possibly encouraging students who were ambivalent
about the University not to apply. Another factor that could weigh
in is the cost of tuition. The University is one of the most
expensive public schools in the country, and with ever-increasing
tuition due to decreased state funding, perhaps more students are
unable to afford the high price of attendance.

However, none of those issues can adequately explain the
disparity between minority and non-minority applicants. If the
disparity persists, it will be important to ascertain what specific
factors affect minorities. Perhaps parents of minority students do
not want their children to be in an environment in which race and
ethnicity have become central issues and their children may face
possible alienation as a result. The Michigan Civil Rights
Initiative, which will bring an increased, and potentially
discomforting, focus on race, may also have discouraged minorities
from applying.

Whatever the causes of the decrease in minority applicants may
be, the University needs to recognize the severity of such an
occurrence. As a school that prides itself on its diversity, there
must be a conscious effort made to maintain diversity among
applicants in the coming years.

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