Staff ed: Admissions doesn’t stop at acceptance

Washington University has a diversity problem. We’ve all bemoaned that New York Times story telling us Wash. U. has the most students from the wealthiest 1 percent of any elite college, and in just 2014, there were only 84 black students in the incoming freshman class.

The number 84 comes from the annual report of the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education (JBHE) on the first-year classes at high-ranking accredited universities, and the dearth of blacks students accepted is not most distressing thing in the report. Even worse, the black student yield (the percentage of accepted black students who actually came to Wash. U.) was just 21.9 percent—the lowest among colleges on the JBHE list. Even when black students got into Wash. U., they didn’t want to go here.

Now for the (qualified) good news: Wash. U. knows it has a diversity problem. Responding to those abysmal 2014 numbers, the University upped its admission of black students, and by the fall of 2016, Wash, U, went from the bottom of the JBHE list to the top, accepting 612 black students in the freshman class, with 221 enrolling for a black student yield rate of 36.1 percent.

The problem, however, still exists. The JBHE just released the numbers for the fall of 2017, and Wash. U. dropped to eighth, largely because of that nagging yield rate. The University admitted 636 black students for this fall, more than last year, but only 191 enrolled. That makes for a yield of 30.8 percent, dwarfed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s yield of 66.7 percent, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s yield of 44.6 percent, the University of California, Los Angeles’ yield of 44.7 percent and so on.

The black student yield is also lower than Wash. U.’s general yield for this year, which comes in around 36.7 percent. The University is better at admitting black students but clearly needs to work on retaining them. Many talented black students would prefer to spend their undergraduate years elsewhere.

The problem for Wash. U., then, is to make the school a more welcome place not just for black students, but for underrepresented groups more broadly. The Center for Diversity and Inclusion, the Deneb STARS program and other measures begin to address this issue, but there is still plenty of work to be done. As Student Life’s own Matthew Wallace pointed out, Wash. U. is one of the few top universities to not have housing for diversity groups. And, would you look at that, a house near Seigle Hall just opened up.

No, making the old Phi Delta Theta house into diversity housing would not alleviate all the diversity issues at Wash. U., but it would be a start. Admitting more minority students was the first—and easiest—step. Wash. U. has a diversity problem, and it needs to keep working on it.