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Wednesday, June 25, 2008
University of Michigan Avoids Any Big Diversity Drop from Preference Ban
Preliminary admissions numbers for the coming fall recently released by U of M show that such predictions have not come true. In the first full admissions cycle after it was precluded from considering applicants' race, the share of its incoming freshman class that is black, Hispanic, or Native American fell from 10.85 percent to 10.47 percent--a decline, yes, but small enough to go largely unnoticed.
A statement issued by the university described several steps it had taken to try to maintain racial and ethnic diversity. Its undergraduate-admissions office hired additional employees, expanded its hours of operation, and used Descriptor PLUS, a geodemographic search tool developed by the College Board, to identify high schools and neighborhoods that are underrepresented on its campus. The university also stepped up its outreach in communities such as Detroit. (See full Chronicle of Higher Education blog coverage, with a link to the university's statement, here.)
Given that the University of Michigan's enrollment has never been as racially diverse as the state it serves, it's worth asking why Michigan did not take such steps earlier. As the book Color and Money discusses in depth, it often has taken the shock to the system delivered by ban on affirmative-action preferences to get colleges to get serious about finding workable alternatives. When they do get serious, the workable alternatives suddenly appear.