The Arizona Desert Lamp

U. Michigan accepts more minority applicants, but no one seems to care.

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 14 October 2009

On the heels of Connerly’s impending visit to the UA, Inside Higher Ed cites a story that will send groups like BAMN (still bizarre) into a tizzy:

While the University of Michigan saw record numbers of applications and enrolled students this year, it also saw an 11 percent drop in the number of black, Latino and Native American freshmen, The Detroit News reported. Michigan has been the center of much public discussion about affirmative action in higher education — both because the university led a national effort to defend affirmative action before the U.S. Supreme Court and because the state’s voters in 2006 barred state entities from considering race and ethnicity in admissions decisions. With this year’s decline, under-represented minority students make up 9.1 percent of the freshman class, compared to 10.4 percent last year and 12.6 percent for the last class admitted prior to the 2006 ban.

Of course, it would be nice if the Detroit News actually read the university’s entire press release (emphasis added):

Among freshmen, underrepresented minority applications rose 3.7 percent and offers of admission rose 8.2 percent, yet freshman underrepresented minority enrollment fell 11.4 percent, reducing the percentage of underrepresented minority freshmen from 10.4 percent in fall 2008 to 9.1 percent in fall 2009—a drop of 69 students.

So let’s try interpreting this story again. The University of Michigan institutes policies that discriminate on the basis of race; such policies are overturned by a solid majority of voters via ballot initiative. Nevertheless, “underrepresented minority” (Black, Hispanic, and Native American = BHNA) applications increased, and the BHNA acceptance rate increased by an even greater proportion.

There are many reasons why BHNA applicants might ultimately decline an offer to attend the school. Considering the trend of relative poverty among these groups, along with the increase in tuition, students might opt for community college, or perhaps even another one of the UM’s branches (the press release only refers to UM-Ann Arbor numbers). Since the drop in BHNA freshman enrollment from last year is a total decrease by 69 students, even more microcosmic factors may play a role. Now that the UM’s enrollment is nearly 42,000, a smaller state school might have been a better fit. Have enrollment numbers of BHNA students declined across the board in the state, or are they just declining at the top research university? And what about the socioeconomic status of incoming freshmen? Inquiring minds want to know; those insistent on reliving the race wars of the 1960s don’t care.

Meanwhile, it’s still baffling how much implied disdain exists for Asian-Americans and Middle-Eastern-Americans, among other minority groups. The latter isn’t so much of an issue at other schools, but Dearborn – a half-hour away, and home to a UM satellite campus – is one of the largest Arab communities in the country. Yet according to census classification, they are white; as a result, they were seen as enduring no different obstacles than the WASPiest of WASPs by the thankfully-voided race-based admission policy at the school.

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