As a lack of diversity continues to pose an issue for minority students on campus, more and more universities are doing their part to embrace change.
Diversity isn’t just about meeting a quota – it’s about creating safe, inclusive spaces that support minorities, celebrate differences and empower students of all backgrounds to be their authentic selves. And, as student demographics shift, embracing diversity is also becoming a smarter business move.
Since 1976, the Hispanic/Latino student population has increased by 441.7%. In the same time, the White/Caucasian demographic has decreased by 34.5%.
In simple terms, catering to a white-only student population isn’t a smart tactic (not even to mention, morally dubious) as the market is shrinking. The opportunity to survive the enrollment cliff of 2025 and beyond is to cater for the generation of future students.
So, if you don’t make an effort to increase diversity on your campus, you’ll fail to keep up with changing demographics and student make-up. Not to mention, you’ll lose out on unique perspectives and a chance to break down barriers and support underrepresented communities. Here are four ways to diversify your inquiry pool.
1. Change your admissions requirements
For many minorities, the challenges toward obtaining higher education begin early on. According to a study conducted by United Way of King County, Black, American Indian and Hispanic students are more likely to drop out of high school than their white counterparts. Structural biases like disproportionate disciplinary action and lack of financial security make it harder for minorities to pursue higher education.
While some students of color manage to overcome these long-standing barriers, the challenges continue. Due to excessive risk aversion, many universities are unwilling to accept minorities unless they’re extremely impressive candidates. As a consequence, many accepted minority students end up on campuses that lack representation, which can cause feelings of isolation and an unfair pressure to excel.
So, how can you make sure your admissions process is accessible for students of all backgrounds? Start by rethinking your application requirements. Higher-income, higher-class and white students are more likely to have the time (and funds) to pad their college applications with impressive extracurriculars, essays and SAT or ACT exam scores. Try narrowing down your applications and emphasizing regular high school coursework. And if you already do this, make sure you're using this language in your advertising and marketing. By targeting known lower-income areas with these ads, you can provide a reassuring nudge to those who could be worried about being accepted to apply to your institution.
2. Hire more diverse faculty
Increasing representation on your campus involves more than just diversifying your applicants – it also requires boosting diversity at the management level. It’s important that minorities have people who understand their experiences and who can advocate for them working in faculty positions.
Unfortunately, universities still have a long way to go. In colleges across the country, nearly three out of four full-time professors are white. Thus, students of color rarely see people who look like them working in positions of power. Not only is this discouraging, but it can also affect academic performance. A study examining community colleges discovered that having a more diverse faculty could improve minority performance gaps by up to 50%.
Having diverse faculty gives minority students role models to look up to – after all, “you can’t be what you can’t see.” To help build a more inclusive community, some universities have decided to enact diversity programs – for example, Stanford GSB launched an “Action Plan for Racial Equity” to expand its faculty representation. Don’t forget to share these initiatives on your social media; it’s important to showcase the values you stand for.
3. Offer scholarships
For years, one of the biggest barriers towards attending college has been socioeconomic status. As the cost of higher education continues to surge, teenagers from economically disadvantaged families are finding it increasingly difficult to apply. And, due to issues like systemic racism and job discrimination, many of these students happen to be racial minorities – studies show that minorities are more likely to be living in poverty than their white peers.
Financial inequities also make it harder to enjoy life on campus. While higher-income students don’t have to worry about paying for room and board or enjoying extracurricular activities, economically disadvantaged students may have to commute to school and get jobs. This can make it more difficult to focus on schoolwork and form social connections.
To help ensure students of all socioeconomic backgrounds have access to opportunities at your university, it’s important to offer scholarships. Not only do scholarships support students who might otherwise be unable to attend your school, but they can also increase enrollments. For example, in 2019, Stormzy (a famous British musician) created an annual scholarship for two black students interested in the University of Cambridge. Since then, the number of black students attending the institution has grown. When funding a scholarship, make sure you promote it across your platforms – you want as many people to have access to this opportunity as possible.
4. Connect with minority students
Leading a university is about more than providing a quality education. To truly connect with students of all backgrounds, you need to prove that you’re making an effort to create a space that’s safe and welcoming for everyone.
It’s one thing to say that you support diversity – it’s another thing to actively dismantle some of the barriers minorities face and to facilitate access to your community. What changes have you enacted on your campus? What are your objectives moving forward? How are you going to make the world more inclusive?
Identify what your institution stands for, then share this message with prospective minority students. Let people know that your campus will be a safe space for them. To talk to our experts about engaging students and diversifying your inquiry pool, get in touch today.