Though it is entirely a University of Michigan campus, the Dearborn campus differs greatly from life on the Ann Arbor campus — especially in the areas of minority enrollment and socioeconomic status.

The Dearborn campus was erected in the mid-1950s, when the Ford Motor Company found it advantageous to have a campus in Southeast Michigan to harvest talent in fields such as engineering and business.

“They came to the conclusion that it will be advantageous not only to Ford Motor Company, but the advancement manufacturing in the region,” Daniel Little, chancellor to the Dearborn campus, said in an interview with the Daily.

Since then, however, the campus has expanded its curriculum. The school now has 58 major programs and four colleges on campus. The Dearborn campus recently added a business minor program and the new College of Education, Health and Human Services.

According to Little, the Dearborn campus aims to serve the Southeast-Michigan community foremost, being an urban school.

“The Ann Arbor campus has a very expansive mission, and UM Dearborn has a more regionally focused mission,” he said. “I think that’s a very complementary role the Dearborn campus has taken with the University of Michigan.”

Little highlighted how the campus aims to include students from all socioeconomic backgrounds. The sticker-price tuition of the Dearborn campus is at $5,427 per semester for in-state students, $1,561 lower than the Ann Arbor in-state tuition per semester. According to Little, 42 percent of the student body is Pell Grant eligible and 50 percent are first-generation students.

In contrast, about 6.8 percent of the Ann Arbor campus student body is composed of first-generation college students and, in Fall 2011, 63 percent of incoming freshmen reported family incomes of over $100,000.

Brad Pischea, student government president on the Dearborn campus, said the low socioeconomic backgrounds of some students leads them to find jobs and work to help pay for tuition. He said that even after the school opened a residence hall in 2013 fit for 500 people, most students still spend most of their time off campus.

“Student life becomes not so much of a priority for a lot of these students, because they’re worried about paying for tuition, making sure they have enough money to pay for their car payment,” Pischea said. “They are spending all their free time either studying or working, so student life becomes a challenge for most of these students, and I don’t blame them.”

School of Public Health student Reem Kashlan transferred from the Dearborn campus to the Ann Arbor campus after three semesters. She said a lot of the students she met at the Dearborn campus tended to be from Dearborn and commuted to school every day. Pischea also mentioned the high number of commuter students at the Dearborn campus, and how that can be challenging when trying to create a tight-knit student community.

Kashlan, who commuted to the Dearborn campus, said she noticed the difference in price of living in Ann Arbor versus Dearborn after she struggled to find reasonably priced housing.

“Even if you have the means to have an expensive apartment, you don’t want to in college because it’s unnecessary to spend so much,” she said. “It’s very hard to find accommodating housing for students, and I’m speaking from a place of privilege, so I don’t know how it would be for someone who doesn’t have the means.”

With respect to student life, the Dearborn campus does not face the same issues regarding the low levels of minority student enrollment.
A quarter of enrolled students at the Dearborn campus are from a minority background, according to their website.

“The campus works really hard to be an inclusive campus,” Little said. “The student organizations work very hard to create an environment where all religious backgrounds, ethnic backgrounds, feel comfortable and included. That’s a really important part of student life on our campus.”

Pischea also said that inclusivity is not an issue because of the high number of minority students and faculty on the campus.

“We are in and around different groups all day long,” Pischea said. “No matter where we go, no matter what we’re involved with, there’s always people with different viewpoints from different backgrounds that we’re interacting with socially and professionally on campus.”

In Ann Arbor, the Black Student Union protested last year for an increase in minority representation on campus and better effort from the administration to make the campus more inclusive. Black and minority enrollment has gone down considerably after affirmative action was banned in the state, from 27.3 percent in 2003 to 20 percent today.

Pischea referred to movements by Muslim, Middle Eastern and North African students, such as the one regarding the “American Sniper” movie cancellation and the divestment movements, saying they do not occur on the Dearborn campus.

The city of Dearborn holds the largest population of Arab-American residents in the United States, at nearly 40 percent.

Kashlan, who is Arab-American, said because of the high number of Arab-American students she saw on the Dearborn campus, she found it more inclusive to her identity. She said coming to Ann Arbor was different because it was harder to find people of her identity.

“There was this emphasis on inclusion because of the high amount of the minority demographic, but when I came to Ann Arbor I noticed there was less of an emphasis on inclusion, especially when it came to controversial issues on campus,” Kashlan said. “The privileged identities generally had more voice.”

Although the Dearborn campus has strong-performance minority and diverse socioeconomic enrollment, Pischea and Kashlan said they do seem to struggle in other areas.

Pischea said, in light of the commuter atmosphere, student government will continue creating a cohesive student body on the Dearborn campus by hosting more programs and events on the weekends to get students to come back on campus.

“A lot of people do just want to come here, take classes and go to work, and their priority might just not be student life,” he said.

With regard to minority student inclusivity, Kashlan said that even after feeling the administration handled the “American Sniper” predicament poorly, noting that she and her friends felt scared to go outside due to the negativity surrounding the situation, she still values the experience. She said discrimination occurs everywhere and learning to deal with it early on was a valuable experience for her.

“In Ann Arbor, since there’s such a little population of minority students, it was easier for me to find people than in Dearborn, because most people were from Arab-American descent,” she said. “It helped me come out of my shell more in Ann Arbor.”

Update: A previous version of this article implied UM-Dearborn tuition rates are $5,427 yearly. UM-Dearborn tuition rates are $5,427 per semester.

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