Harvard recently touted its admitted class as the most diverse in the university’s history, but the ethnic makeup of Yale’s accepted students remains a mystery.
Yale releases just a single percentage — the proportion of its admitted students who self-identify as minorities — while other schools, such as Harvard University, specifically state the percentage of admits who describe themselves as Asian American, African American, Latino or Native American. Dean of Admissions Jeff Brenzel said Yale only publishes a racial breakdown for students who choose to enroll because releasing statistics at an earlier stage can be misleading. But Harvard maintains that while the data should not lead to meaningful conclusions, it is a point of interest for many observers of the admissions process.
This year, 41 percent of the American students admitted to the class of 2011 self-identified as minorities, which Brenzel said was identical to last year’s proportion.
He also said an increasing number of minorities have applied over the past few years.
“Minority applicants were up by five percent over those for the class of 2009, which had about the same number of total applications as the class of 2011,” he said.
The number of applications to Yale declined 9.7 percent from the class of 2010 to the class of 2011, while the number of minority applications declined 7 percent.
He said Yale has not historically published the numbers of applicants from each minority group because the best point at which to analyze minority admissions is when the freshman class is finalized in May.
“We do not publish breakdowns of minority admission numbers because we think they can be misleading relative to matriculation numbers,” Brenzel said. “That is, various groups yield at somewhat different rates, and we think the best measure of diversity in admissions practices is the final makeup of a class.”
But administrators at Harvard, which boasted the most racially-diverse admitted class in its history this year, said they think it is worthwhile to publish more statistics.
“People see it as a matter of interest,” Harvard Director of Admissions Marlyn McGrath-Lewis said. “It’s not precise for something, and it doesn’t characterize an incoming class very well — it’s just a piece of information. This reflects, more than anything else, institutional conventions on reporting statistics.”
This year, the pool of Harvard admitted students is 10.7 percent African American, 19.6 percent Asian American, 10.1 percent Latino and 1.5 percent Native American. McGrath-Lewis attributed the record-high percentages to long-running efforts to reach out to a diverse group of students.
“We’ve worked hard to recruit excellent students from many backgrounds for many years, and this is a sign of continued progress,” she said.
Princeton University, which also does not publish statistics on minority applicants, agrees that the final stage is the most relevant at which to examine the numbers, spokeswoman Cass Cliatt said. The university does believe that racial diversity is an important educational objective, she said, and thus Princeton releases statistical breakdowns for the matriculating class.
“When there’s a reason to break down enrollment numbers by racial or ethnic group we’re happy to do that,” Cliatt said in an e-mail. “We don’t break down application and acceptance data because we don’t want anyone to believe mistakenly that we make admission decisions in categories.”
Of Princeton’s admitted students for the Class of 2011, 44 percent self-identified as minorities.
Some leaders of minority student groups on campus said they were not bothered by Yale’s decision not to publish the racial breakdown for the admitted class, although they said it would be interesting to see the data.
Tarana Shivdasani ’08, president of the South Asian Society, said that while releasing more statistics would make the admissions process more transparent, Yale’s commitment to minority students is clear enough.
“I think that over the past few years, the Yale College administration has been putting a lot of emphasis on diversity,” she said. “The sort of activities they support on campus and the opportunities for you to come up with your own projects are pretty much the same for everyone. … Yale undoubtedly attracts a diverse audience, so I don’t think it’s a cause for concern.”
But Wilma Bainbridge ’09, publicity chair for the Japanese American Students Union, said she thinks Yale should publish the racial breakdown data so that current and prospective students can compare the numbers to those of Harvard and other schools. Yale might be reluctant to release this information because it portray the school in a negative light, she said.
“If Yale seems to not be as racially diverse, then people might get pretty angry, so that may be why Yale doesn’t want to publish this information,” Bainbridge said.
Richard Shieh ’09, a co-moderator for the Taiwanese American Society, said he did not find Yale’s decision not to release statistics troubling and he does not think Yale is deliberately concealing the yield for minority students. Shieh participated in an admissions office campaign to reach out to Asian-American admitted students, he said.
Accepted students must respond with their decisions by May 1.