Schlissel says enrollment report will show diversity improvements

Wednesday, September 2, 2015 - 12:54pm

University President Mark Schlissel speaks with Daily reporters at the Fleming Administration Building.

University President Mark Schlissel speaks with Daily reporters at the Fleming Administration Building. Buy this photo
Allison Farrand/Daily

 

After a year of calls for increased campus diversity, University President Mark Schlissel said he expects to see signs of tangible improvement as early as this September.

In an interview with The Michigan Daily on Tuesday, Schlissel said he hopes this year’s freshman enrollment figures — typically released in the fall — will reflect the impacts of a new University effort to package the delivery of financial aid awards and admissions decisions.

“We should start to see modest incremental changes in the direction of diversity now,” he said. “We began implementing some of the changes in the admissions and financial aid procedure a year ago, and in September we are going to announce how we did.”

The initiative largely focused on closing the gap between the receipt of financial aid packages and admissions decisions, with the goal of helping families and students as they make decisions about college, particularly the costs.

Schlissel said he expects the makeup of this year’s freshman class to reflect the impacts of this change.

The president has frequently spoken of plans to release a campus-wide diversity initiative. He told the Daily on Tuesday that he expects to launch the full plan by the end of the academic year — not at his summit on diversity scheduled for next week.

That event will instead focus on laying out the broader charge for the initiative.

In his inaugural address last September, Schlissel deemed diversity and inclusion a priority of his presidency. In the address, Schlissel said excellence is rooted in a diverse and inclusive student body.

Despite ongoing calls for a more diverse campus, both by students and by University officials, the University has struggled to increase the diversity of its staff and student body, as well as address issues related to campus climate. In 2014, Black students made up 4.63 percent of the student body, compared to the state’s Black community, which composes 14.3 percent of the population. In Fall 2011, 63 percent of incoming freshmen reported family incomes over $100,000.

Last week, Schlissel also announced a new effort to increase the student body’s socioeconomic diversity. The High Achieving Involved Leader scholarship will cover four years of tuition for a select group of in-state, low-income students and provide additional resources during the application process.

Fitzgerald said application support and college planning resources will be offered to 1,000 students through the program this year.

He said it’s too early to tell how many of those students will ultimately receive scholarship money, though all of those admitted from the pilot’s pool will receive the funds.

Though optimistic, Schlissel stressed achieving a diverse student body will not happen quickly. He said his university-wide strategic plan will continue on after his presidency ends.

“I am convinced my successors are going to be working on this because of how far society has to go to be truly inclusive and diverse society, the kind that matches our ideals.”