With an unprecedented number of applications to Yale College this year, Yale is attracting increasingly more students from demographic groups that have traditionally been underrepresented on college campuses.
Heated student protests over racial discrimination at Yale did not seem to deter prospective students of color, as applications from students self-identifying as African-American increased 10 percent from last year. Yet this trend has been sustained over time. Since 2013, applications from African-American students are up 36 percent, while applications from students identifying as members of ethnic or racial minorities are up 18 percent. The number of applications from first-generation college students is up 12 percent. By contrast, the number of students applying from the U.S. has increased by just 5 percent.
“America is becoming increasingly diverse -— ethnically, racially, religiously [and] linguistically,” Director of Outreach and Recruitment Mark Dunn ’07 said. “And the change is being driven by the younger generation. It’s encouraging to see these larger demographic changes reflected in our applicant pool and our student body.”
Nationwide, more African-American and Hispanic students are attending college now than ever before. Between 2000 and 2013, the percentage of college students who were African-American rose from 11.7 to 14.7 percent, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. This figure went from 9.9 percent to 15.8 percent for Hispanics during the same time frame.
Dunn said that without having yet evaluated the regular decision applicant pool, he cannot speculate on whether the minority applicant pool will be more competitive, nor can he determine whether the overall percentage of traditionally underrepresented students will be higher in the class of 2020.
Dunn also said that because all the Office of Undergraduate Admissions’ outreach programs are conducted with many diverse groups in mind, it is impossible to draw correlations between those campaigns and increases in applications from specific groups.
He did, however, note four specific outreach programs targeted towards underrepresented groups. These efforts include print publications outlining the ways in which Yale celebrates diversity, a summer postcard campaign aimed at spreading information about the University’s financial aid policies, the Yale Ambassadors program, which sends current students to high schools to speak with standout students from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds and the Multicultural Open House, which invites prospective students and their families to campus to learn about Yale’s academic and cultural offerings.
Benjamin Reese Jr., president of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education and vice president for institutional equity at Duke University, said ensuring that a campus is welcoming for students of all backgrounds is the most important way in which schools can attract diverse applicants. He said that outreach efforts like brochures or websites could be viewed as merely cosmetic, whereas a school with a healthy campus climate will develop a favorable reputation.
“It’s really incumbent upon colleges and universities to recognize that it’s not so much what they put in a brochure, or sound bites that they may communicate,” Reese said. “It really is about creating a kind of environment that students will see and that will signal to them that this is a college or university that is welcoming to students from all backgrounds.”
Responding to widespread unrest among the student body over the racial climate at Yale, University President Peter Salovey announced in November a slew of reforms including increased funding to the cultural centers, additional mental health resources for students of color and changes to financial aid policy.
Yale has also made tangible efforts to demonstrate its commitment to increasing diversity on campus through admissions. In September, Dean of Admissions Jeremiah Quinlan announced that the University would join the Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success, a group of selective colleges developing a new application portal to enhance equity among applicants.
But Daniel Perlstein, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley Graduate School of Education and an expert in diversity and educational equity, said measures to increase diversity in higher education must begin before the start of the college admissions process. He said that while there are issues in the U.S. related to lack of information about college options, many students from underrepresented groups are also lacking in access to quality education that would prepare them for academic work at a school like Yale.
“The notion of finding out about college is the least of it,” Perlstein said.
In 2013, 34.2 percent of African-Americans nationwide aged 18 to 24 were enrolled in degree-granting institutions, according to NCES.