Freshman diversity levels inch up

More than a year into the University’s push for diversity and inclusion on campus, this year’s freshman class is only slightly more diverse, numbers that put GW in the middle of the pack among market basket schools.

About 28 percent of freshmen are multicultural, up 1 percentage point from the class of 2014.

Kathryn Napper, associate vice president and dean for undergraduate admissions, said she was “pleased to see this upward trend in the ethnic diversity of the freshman class.”

“The increase in the percentage in ethnic diversity should be applauded, and even though it represents only one percentage point, it is not an insignificant increase in this market environment,” she said.

University spokeswoman Courtney Bowe said there are a number of factors involved in recruiting a freshman class.

“The University remains committed to achieving a more inclusive community and is open to addressing the concerns of students as it relates to this issue,” Bowe said.

According to data from the Office of Institutional Research and Planning, 55 percent of the student body was white last year. This year’s total enrollment diversity has not yet been calculated. Sixty-two percent of the class of 2015 is white, compared to about 64 percent of the class of 2014.

A study last fall reported GW was less diverse than market basket schools, like New York University and Boston University, which both had more than 50 percent students of color in their student bodies.

Similar institutions have fewer white students making up their freshmen class. The Class of 2015 at New York University, Emory University and Boston University are 48, 44 and 51 percent white respectively.

Attracting students of diverse backgrounds has been a recent priority for GW. In late spring 2010, University President Steven Knapp created the Council on Diversity and Inclusion to plan ways to expand diversity on campus.

This spring, Knapp hired Terri Harris Reed as the University’s first vice provost for diversity and inclusion to spearhead GW’s attempt to attract students from a variety of racial and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Senior Vice Provost for Student and Academic Support Services Robert Chernak said the University has increased its visits to urban high schools and expanded recruiting programs geared toward minority students.

This year, more students reported their race on their applications, giving the University a more precise look at student diversity. About 4 percent of students did not report their races this year, compared to about 13 percent of students last year.

Four percent of freshmen identified as two or more races, compared to 0.7 percent of the student body last year. Nationally, the 2010 Census allowed respondents to identify as multiracial for the first time.

“There is nothing from the admissions perspective that would explain the change in this percentage,” Napper said. “Perhaps students this year are more comfortable in designating ethnicity.”

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