Minority Enrollment at Michigan Holds Steady Following Affirmative Action Ban - Higher Education

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Minority Enrollment at Michigan Holds Steady Following Affirmative Action Ban

by Kenneth J. Cooper

The number of minority freshmen at the University of Michigan this fall remains about the same as in 2006, a notable departure from the steep drops that other flagship public universities have experienced immediately after affirmative action was banned in Michigan a year ago.

For every minority group except Asians, the percentage of freshmen declined slightly because Ann Arbor campus enrolled a bigger class than it did last year. The 11 percent increase, including international students, may have made it possible for the university to admit more students of color than it would have been able to otherwise.

“We have worked hard to inform prospective students about U-M’s ongoing commitment to diversity and will continue to reach out to as many students as possible to ensure the most highly qualified and diverse applicant pool,” said Senior Vice Provost Lester Monts.

University of Michigan Freshman Enrollment, Before and After Affirmative Action Ban

Black

Hispanic

American Indian

Asian

Fall 2007 enrollment

334

267

50

757

Fall 2006 enrollment

330

274

52

622

In 2003, the Supreme Court struck down Michigan’s undergraduate admissions because the formula used at the time awarded extra points to minorities, but the justices upheld a different procedure at its law school. Last November, the state’s voters approved a constitutional amendment that prohibits public colleges from considering race or ethnicity, but a legal challenge allowed the practice to continue through the end of last December.

“I think a lot of this is pretty inconclusive at Michigan. We’re probably going to need another admissions cycle without preferential treatment to find out what’s really going on,” said Ward Connerly, president of the American Civil Rights Institute, who led the campaign for the constitutional amendment.

“If they kick in their outreach efforts soon enough, there won’t be a significant effect at all, which is what anyone would want,” Connerly added.

Theodore M. Shaw, director-counsel and president of the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund, said: “I’m pleased to see they’ve found ways to continue the enrollment of people from underrepresented groups without the explicit consideration of race. It’s good news.”

A racial-ethnic breakdown of its freshman class that the University of Michigan released Thursday shows, compared to last year, Blacks slipped from 6.3 percent to 5.8 percent, despite an increase of four to 334; Hispanics declined from 5.3 percent to 4.7 percent, with their numbers falling by seven to 267; and American Indians dipped from 1 percent to 9 percent after 50, two fewer than last year, enrolled.

The total number of underrepresented minorities — Blacks, Hispanics and American Indians — remained about the same at 651, five fewer than last year. With the larger class, the new total represents a decrease from 12.7 percent to 11.3 percent.

The percentage of Asians increased to 13.2 percent, up from 12 percent, as their numbers rose by 135 to 757. The number of non-Hispanic Whites jumped by 333 to 3,741, though their percentage in the class slipped from 66 percent to 65.2 percent. Freshmen who did not declare a race or ethnicity, or identified themselves as other, increased to 10.3 percent from 9.2 percent.

The pattern was similar at Wayne State University, where the freshman class was nine percent larger and the numbers of Blacks, American Indians and Asians went up slightly. Somewhat fewer Hispanics enrolled, though. Percentage wise, there were slim increases in Blacks and American Indians, and dips in Asians and Hispanics.

At Wayne’s law school, the first-year class was smaller — by 28 percent. The number of Hispanics decreased by more than a third, while Blacks and Asians declined a little and American Indians remained the same. Percentages fell for every minority —by far the most for Hispanics—except American Indians.

Michigan State University experienced declines in the number and percentage of minority freshmen. The enrollment of 1,248 minorities, or 98 fewer than last year, represents a decrease from 19.2 percent to 17.8 percent. The entire freshman class, including international students whose numbers increased significantly, was almost 16 percent larger than last year’s.

A detailed breakdown shows Blacks declined from 9.1 percent to 8.8 percent, down by 21 to 618; Asians decreased from 6.2 percent to 5 percent, to 350 or 83 fewer; Hispanics remained unchanged at 3.3 percent and 228; and American Indians increased their number by six, to 52, but stayed at .7 percent of the class.

–Kenneth J. Cooper

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