August 29, 2022
The University of California led the way among highly competitive colleges in going to a white minority student body. Last fall, the system’s campuses enrolled 51,727 first-year students. The largest ethnic group among the students was Asian Americans, at 18,127 (35 percent). They were followed by Latino students, at 13,573 (26 percent). White students represented only 10,152 of the total (20 percent). At some campuses, white students make up an even smaller share. At the UC Riverside campus, for instance, last year there were only 517 white freshmen out of a class of 5,203. And this is without affirmative action, which California has banned.
Harvard University followed a few years ago and this fall is expecting Asian Americans to be the largest share of its first-year class, at 27.6 percent. With other students of color, the total minority enrollment is 57.5 percent. At Cornell University, 57.7 percent of admitted students identified as students of color. Amherst College followed the trend last year. Those colleges are all private institutions, and they do use affirmative action.
Now the trend is arriving at private Midwestern colleges and universities.
At Washington University in St. Louis, white students will make up only 38 percent of first-years this fall. Those figures come after a major campaign to increase the number of Pell Grant–eligible students to 20 percent of all freshmen, an increase of 15 percentage points in 10 years. At the University of Chicago, only 33.5 percent of the students were white (in the undergraduate college).
At public universities in the Midwest, the imperative of admitting students from the state’s residents limits what admissions officers can do.
But that’s not the case at liberal arts colleges. The trend extends even to those that are in rural (overwhelmingly white) parts of the country. They believe that enrolling more minority students will help their institutions (as minority populations grow) and that it is simply the right thing to do.