Although the University’s general enrollment increased to a
record 39,031 students this fall, freshman enrollment of black
students fell for the second consecutive year.
The overall number of freshman rose by 366 students, but new
statistics released yesterday show black students now make up 7.6
percent of freshmen, down from 8.9 percent last year and 9.4
percent in 2001. In addition, the percentage of Hispanic freshmen
declined from a peak of 6.1 percent in 2002 to 4.8 percent this
But Senior Vice Provost Lester Monts said these patterns are
nothing unusual, given past experience.
“We experience fluctuations in one or more of the race/ethnicity
categories every year. There are so many variables to consider,
which makes it difficult to say exactly why these changes occur,”
Monts said, adding that enrollment figures vary depending on annual
demographics and applicant talent pool.
But Monts acknowledged that the University’s involvement in two
national lawsuits last year regarding its race-conscious admissions
policies might have discouraged some students from applying.
The U.S. Supreme Court in June struck down the former
undergraduate point system, which granted 20 points to every
underrepresented minority. The University revamped its application
process in August to allow for more creative ways to find out about
a candidate’s past and experiences. The admissions office added
more essays, asking applicants to discuss the importance of
diversity, and tell about their experiences.
While student leaders have expressed concern that high school
students would not be able to answer these questions due to lack of
experience with diversity, Monts said the admissions office is
making extra efforts this year to assist high school students and
“The admissions staff participates in admissions fairs and other
recruiting activities all over the nation at which time the new
process is explained,” Monts said. “The staff in the Office of
Undergraduate Admissions conducts workshops for individual high
schools and districts on our new policies and the application
In February, former University President James Duderstadt said
in an interview that he thought the University should focus more on
direct recruitment efforts to bring minorities to campus, in
addition to considering race in admissions. He mentioned his own
agenda, “The Michigan Mandate,” which he implemented during his
presidency from 1988 to 1996.
“The Michigan Mandate focused on outreach into various
population centers, high schools, middle schools, providing
financial support, academic support (and) changing the campus
culture to embrace diversity as necessary for excellence,”
Duderstadt said. “President (Lee) Bollinger chose to go in somewhat
a different direction, so many of those programs were
Monts also said that the rising cost of tuition might deter
potential students, but added the University continues to emphasize
financial aid in recruitment.
The University’s population is at an all-time high with
increases in most schools, in a year when the University took a 10
percent budget cut from the state. But University spokeswoman Julie
Peterson said enrollment management is a “complicated process” and
schools base their annual enrollment targets on a number of
“I don’t see the budget situation causing schools to shrink the
size of their enrollment,” Peterson said. “I don’t see colleges
saying, ‘first and foremost, let’s cut our enrollment.'”
The University noticed significant growth in several colleges
including the schools of Education and Nursing. Education saw a
jump from 611 students to 662 students. Nursing numbers went from
815 to 841. Peterson said she believes this may be due to shortages
in both fields. Administrators from both colleges did not return
phone calls yesterday.
The study also showed a 2-percent growth in international
students. But Peterson noted the growth was less than in previous
years, due to stricter visa regulations.