The numbers don’t lie. The University of Colorado Boulder’s fall enrollment census reinforces the school’s efforts to foster a diverse campus climate.
Each year the university aims to create new programs that will attract a wide variety of students with different backgrounds and interests. This year, the freshman class has set a new standard for achievement as the most academically qualified and ethnically diverse the school has ever seen.
The census published on September 13, 2016, tracks the total student body demographics between the years 2006 and 2016. The summary includes an overview of each year, highlighting population characteristics such as gender, ethnicity, and first generation status.
According to the results, CU has excelled in diversifying its institution at large for the second consecutive year. With the influx of 6,439 first-year students, the 786-acre campus suddenly feels significantly smaller. This year’s fall enrollment marks the largest admission of college freshman in history for the university.
Dr. Robert Boswell, director of The Office of Diversity, Equality, and Community Engagement at CU said, “The demographics of the U. S. population are rapidly changing. As our country becomes more diverse, particularly with its growing Latino population, it is important that our leaders (across all industries: government, education, business, health professions, science and engineering) reflect the diversity of our citizenry. This will make for a stronger and healthier national economy.”
The total enrollment number has increased from 31,300 students to 32,270, or 3.4 percent from last year. The number of non-resident students has increased from 38.9 percent to 40.1 percent, as well as a slight increase in first-generation students by .2 percent.
In addition, the 2016 freshman class has been named “the strongest ever on all measures of academic qualification” according to a statement released by the university on September 17th. These qualifications include credentials such as high school GPA, SAT, and ACT scores.
The average high school GPA of those admitted was between 3.44 and 4.0 with a class percentile ranking that ranged from 68-9 percent. The mean SAT score for math and critical reading, in applications submitted prior to March 2016, was between 1120 and 1320. After March, the scores in math and evidence based-reading and writing averaged at 1990-1380. The composite ACT score fell between 25-31 rounding up CU’s most impressive stat’s of all time for a single class.
David Aragon, Executive Director of Student Success in the ODECE said, “There are a few factors that have contributed to the increases in the enrollment of diverse students. First, approximately 5 years ago we began to see more consistent increases in the enrollment of diverse students, from 1-2 percent each year. Prior to this period a single percentage point increase in the enrollment of diverse students would occur over 5 years. “
Aragon continued, “So, the demographic shifts are becoming increasingly apparent in Colorado. Secondly, our Chancellor and campus leadership have upheld a commitment to diversity in our student population. This means that our Admissions Office staff is to be credited for their efforts to emphasize diversity in the recruitment of students. Our pre-collegiate outreach programs are also a contributing factor in these gains. Finally, many of Colorado’s school districts have been working hard to increase the college-going rates of their students. I believe it is the combination of all of these factors that have yielded the positive results of an increasingly diverse student body at the University of Colorado.”
This issue is not isolated to CU. It exists across the nation. There are many historical factors that have contributed to the lack of diversity in America’s colleges and universities, and especially so with selective research institutions. As a result, there is significant competition amongst the selective colleges and universities to recruit students from diverse backgrounds to their institutions.
In response to this transformation, CU Senior William Natter describes the shift as “impressive to say the least…as a Finance major graduating this spring, the numbers demonstrate an incremental shift from what used to be a relatively polarized student body 4 years ago, to a now more balanced demographic”.
Each year the administration has worked hard to kick start a slew of new student-groups and organizations that promote diversity in all areas of educational experience. The Office of Diversity, Equality, and Community Engagement at CU spearheaded this effort with its team of devoted faculty and staff. Their mantra, posted on their website, aims to “achieve the university’s commitment to inclusive excellence and uphold it as a priority across the campus. The office fosters CU-Boulders vision for a diverse campus climate and works with students, faculty and staff to implement the campus diversity plan. Programs and activities are sponsored by ODECE to engage the campus and community members by valuing our common experiences and celebrating our difference”.
Aragon named a few of the programs that are offered at the ODECE. He said, “In ODECE we offer different kinds of programs. ODECE supports the learning, diversity and student success of current CU students through the CU LEAD Alliance, a network of 12 academic learning communities who share a set of values, “Leadership, Excellence, Achievement and Diversity (LEAD)”. These programs promote academic excellence through four core elements: 1) first-year cohort activities, 2) participation scholarships, 3) academic enrichment, and 4) community-building activities. Research has shown that student retention and graduation are improved with a mix of academic, social and financial support. Additionally, these programs aim to position students well for future opportunities such as graduate school and/or entry-level career positions.“
Soon to be implemented by the ODECE is the “Inclusion and Academic Excellence Plan”. This intent of which is to “define inclusive excellence in each academic and administrative unit and to work across units with faculty, and staff to create a common understanding of CU-Boulders vision, mission, and strategic goals regarding diversity and inclusive excellence”.
The university plans to expand both the administrative and social understanding of diversity in Boulder by embracing the notion that “a truly diverse community includes individuals from a range of ethnic, regional, cultural, economic, and religious backgrounds—as well as first-generation students, persons with disabilities, students who are parents, people of different ages and ideological viewpoints, as well as many others.” In doing this, they hope to continue attracting a similarly motivated applicant pool.
Regardless, the college continues to face concern with the overwhelming majority of Caucasian enrollment numbers.
Junior Eduardo Samayo spoke to this sentiment by adding, “I felt so intimidated constantly surrounded by people who didn’t necessarily look like me or even speak like me”. Samayo hails from El Salvador, and is the first generation of his family to attend college.
For him, CU seemed to be the perfect place to begin his American adventure. Once settled in, he described that he found it hard to fit in with students that he felt didn’t want to make an effort to make him feel welcome in their territory. In order to address the frustration and intimidation felt by students like Eduardo, the campus plans to continue developing outreach programs so that every student feels at home at CU.