Yale sees increase in freshman class diversity

The class of 2016 is the most racially diverse in the University’s history after the number of freshmen identifying as students of color increased marginally in the latest admissions cycle.

A record 40.6 percent of this year’s freshman class identified as both a citizen or permanent resident of the United States and also a student of color on admissions forms, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeffrey Brenzel said Wednesday — up exactly one percentage point from the previous year’s figure. Though those statistics rely on students’ own decisions to identify themselves with a particular race or ethnicity, three admissions experts interviewed said the diversity of Yale’s class of 2016 is in line with that of other top-tier institutions.

“Our yield with students of color continues to be very strong against intense competition from peer schools,” Brenzel said. “That has contributed to an incredibly diverse and accomplished freshman class each year.”

The official racial breakdown of the class of 2016 — as reported by Yale to the federal government — is 16.8 percent Asian, 7.1 percent black, 10.4 percent Hispanic, 0.9 percent Native American and 5.4 percent multiracial. While students in past years could only select one racial or ethnic category on application forms, the Department of Education established new reporting guidelines in 2011 that ask students first whether they identify as Hispanic/Latino, and then ask students to check boxes for all other racial categories with which they identify.

Brenzel said his office is also reporting diversity statistics without the multiracial category in order to “understand the real diversity represented in the class” — counting students toward each group they marked on their forms. According to that methodology, the class of 2016 is 20.2 percent Asian, 9.4 percent black, 10.4 percent Hispanic and 2.7 percent Native American, he said. By comparison, Harvard’s freshman class is 22.6 percent Asian, 9.4 percent black, 9.3 percent Hispanic and 1.7 percent Native or Hawaiian-American, the Harvard Crimson reported.

“If a matriculating student were to self-identify as Latina and Native American, they would have been reported as Hispanic [under the new federal guidelines] but as both Hispanic and Native American in the second set of numbers,” Brenzel explained. “Similarly, if a student has self-identified as Asian and black, they would have been reported as multiracial to [the government] but reported as both Asian and black in the second set.”

David Petersam, president of Virginia-based higher education consulting group AdmissionsConsultants, said Yale’s numbers “clearly show the outstanding effort the administration has made towards providing a more diverse environment that benefits all of its students.” He added that Yale has garnered some “good PR” by admitting such a diverse freshman class.

Andrew McNeill, senior associate director of college counseling at the Taft School in Watertown, Conn., said Yale’s prestige and generous financial aid policies allow it to attract a demographic that represents the country at large, without having to compromise the quality of the incoming class.

“It is a sad reflection on American society that we deliver educational opportunity in relation to economic prosperity, and economic prosperity is linked to educational background; that circle of exclusion means African American and Hispanic students, who have been historically and disproportionately underprivileged, are also disproportionately under-prepared for the rigors of a place like Yale,” McNeill said in a Wednesday email. “I see [Yale’s] numbers as very encouraging. While [African-American and Hispanic citizens] represent far more than 19.8 percent of America, those numbers are impressive given the structure of American pre-collegiate education.”

Yale admitted 2,043 students to its freshman class, of which 1,356 chose to matriculate this fall.

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