Officials look to increase diversity

As the December application deadline approaches, University officials are focusing on recruiting more minority students to fill the incoming freshman class.

GW enrolled fewer multicultural students this year than last, despite an increase in the number of minority applicants. The most significant decrease is in the number of admitted black students, which dropped from 114 in 2002 to 75 in 2003.

“We have seen good numbers in terms of applications, but we have not seen good numbers in terms of matriculates,” said Sammie Robinson, associate director of undergraduate admissions.

The number of freshman minority students dropped to 389 this year, down from 406 last year.

While some universities count on enrolling minority students from the surrounding areas to contribute to their multicultural populations, GW cannot rely on D.C.

“Social policy has made it more encouraging for D.C. students to attend public universities,” said Robert Chernak, senior vice president for academic support services.

Robinson said the number of students who apply to and enroll at GW from the District, many of whom are multicultural, has decreased in recent years. He attributed the drop to more competition from other universities and a tuition exchange program enacted by Congress in 1999 that allows D.C. students to attend all public universities in the country at the cost of in-state tuition.

Robinson said as a result of the tuition exchange program, “we are going to D.C. public schools and recruiting more.”

Freshman James Walker said he was “shocked” to learn that he was one of only 75 black students in his class. As an incoming freshman, he said he expected to see more diversity on campus.

“In your day-to-day trips to class, you don’t see the different ethnicities – you don’t see the diversity,” Walker said.

Although Walker said he anticipated a larger multicultural population, he said GW is “still decent compared to other schools” in terms of diversity.

The multicultural student population, as defined by GW, is made up of black, Asian-American, Latino-American and Native-American students, and does not include international students. There are currently 1,792 undergraduate multicultural students enrolled at GW compared to 6,239 undergraduate white students.

Although the number of freshman minority students dropped this year, the number of minority transfers increased by 37 students. Last year, 68 minority students transferred to GW, according to the Office of Institutional Research.

Admissions officials are changing multicultural student recruitment tactics by adding more school visits to urban areas, planning special visitation days at GW for multicultural students and continuing a program started last year called the Student Multicultural Admissions Recruitment Team.

Tanese Horton, assistant director of undergraduate admissions and co-coordinator of SMART, said the team is made up of students and faculty who expressed an interest in increasing the multicultural population on campus.

SMART links about 20 multicultural GW students with prospective multicultural students. SMART members assist multicultural recruitment by accompanying admissions representatives to college fairs and school visits, hosting visiting multicultural students for overnight stays and forming a multicultural chat room with prospective students.

Junior Adela de la Torre, a member of SMART, said she got involved with SMART this summer because she wanted to improve campus diversity.

“Our Latino and African American populations, especially, are somewhat smaller than one would hope,” she said. “However, I think GW is taking an active role in helping aggressively recruit multicultural groups.”

The admissions office is also planning a day when multicultural students from local schools can visit the campus, interview with admissions representatives and meet current students.

“We try to have a student population that mirrors society both as we see it today and how we expect it to be in the future,” Chernak said.

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