Enrollment deposit numbers recently released by the University indicate that minority enrollment will likely rebound this fall after a drop last year. The key factor responsible for this change appears to be the University’s strengthened commitment to recruiting minority applicants after last year’s drop. These encouraging results show that the University’s current admissions process, combined with serious recruiting efforts, can be effective in promoting diversity. To maintain its commitment to a diverse campus, the University needs to not simply maintain but also intensify its work to maintain a diverse student body.
While final enrollment data will not be available until the fall, the number of paid enrollment deposits has historically been a reliable predictor of fall-term enrollment. According to the figures released last week, deposits from black students jumped 20 percent this year, after suffering a 13-percent drop last year. Deposits from Hispanic students increased 15 percent and are on track to reach an all-time high for Hispanic enrollment at the University. Although deposits from Native American students were down slightly, last year saw a large number of deposits from this group.
Given the steep decline in minority enrollment last year, these numbers come as a welcome relief. This is the second year the University has implemented a new undergraduate application that was revised to comply with the U.S. Supreme Court’s affirmative action ruling. A trend of continual drops in minority enrollment could have threatened the University’s mission to foster diversity and required further revisions to the admissions process.
University President Mary Sue Coleman should be commended for reaching out to minorities, and her efforts — such as her visits to three traditionally black churches last year — have certainly played a part in this increase in minority enrollment. The University has also recruited minority applicants through the creation of a Spanish-language website and efforts by minority alumni and current students to reach out to prospective students. The University must ensure that these efforts continue and are increased further so that this year’s enrollment numbers become the norm, not an anomaly.
The Spanish-language website provides a level of comfort for Spanish-speaking parents but currently provides fairly limited information about the University. Upon its launch, the University pledged that the site would continue to expand, but few improvements have been made since last fall. It should be expanded so that Spanish-speaking parents are comfortable and better able to learn about the University.
Additionally, the University should increase the number of visits to Michigan high schools with large minority populations. University students and alumni can play an important role in recruitment to make sure that all worthy applicants, not just those from affluent schools with well-connected guidance counselors, are familiar with the University.
The Michigan Civil Rights Initiative could prevent the University from considering race in its admissions policy. Should MCRI appear on the state ballot and pass in 2006, minority enrollment would likely drop significantly. It is important the University continue to refine the recruitment methods needed to attract minority applicants, especially with the threat that MCRI could eventually force the University to alter its admissions policy.
The past year’s drop in minority enrollment and the looming threat of MCRI indicate that the University must stretch itself to promote diversity on campus. This year’s statistics serve as proof that recruitment efforts have been successful toward this aim, and the University must continue to further current practices and explore new strategies aimed at attracting minority students.