Brown lags in black enrollment

Brown ranks second-to-last in the Ivy League in the percentage of black students enrolled in the Class of 2012, according to a recent study published by the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education.

Blacks made up 6.7-percent of the first-year class at Brown, compared with 12.1 percent at Columbia University, which led all 29 upper-echelon universities the study examined. Yale and the University of Pennsylvania, second and third in the Ivy League, had 10 percent and 9.4 percent respectively. Among Ivies, only Cornell enrolled a lower percentage of blacks than Brown – 4.5 percent of its incoming class.

Brown’s 6.7 percent enrollment tied it with Johns Hopkins, Washington and Vanderbilt Universities for 17th among the 29 universities, which were included in study because of their high scores in U.S. News and World Report’s annual college rankings.

“We admitted more African American students last year than in the history of the institution,” said Dean of Admissions James Miller ’73, but that did not lead to a rise in black students’ matriculation. The Class of 2012 matriculated 104 black students, one fewer than the Class of 2011.

“We did not have a good year last year,” Miller said.

The relatively low 6.7-percent enrollment is not due to a lack of blacks in the applicant pool, nor in the number admitted. The problem instead lies in the number of students who accept Brown’s offer, Miller said. He said there are three steps to building a diverse student body: increasing diversity in the applicant pool, then among admitted students and finally among those who actually enroll.

Blacks represented 6.1 percent of the University’s 20,633 applicants last year. Brown accepted 22 percent of them, compared with just over 13 percent of all applicants.

In order to increase the matriculation rate among blacks, the admissions office has been bringing low-income students to the Third World Welcome, a program for admitted students run by the Third World Center in conjunction with A Day on College Hill. The University also hopes to expand contact between black alums and accepted students.

“We did very well with people from the lowest-income group” of blacks, but less well with those from the upper-middle class, Miller said.

“We are trying to get more (black) students to accept their acceptance into Brown,” said Brenda Allen, Associate Provost and Director of Institutional Diversity.

“For the past 10 years, we’ve been doing about the same,” Allen said. “Is that about the same the best we can do? We don’t think so.”

The matriculation rate among blacks accepted to Brown was 37.4 percent, according to the study, compared with 64.1 percent at Harvard, 52.8 percent at Penn and 35.5 percent at Cornell. Columbia, Yale, Dartmouth and Princeton did not provide data on black student yield.

Though all 29 schools in the study provided enrollment data, some declined to provide information on acceptance rate or yield among blacks.

“Some universities believe they will be giving up a competitive edge to other schools if they reveal their admissions data,” wrote Robert Bruce Slater, the Managing Editor of the journal, in an e-mail to The Herald.

“These universities may not want to let their conservative alumni see that they are giving preferences to black applicants,” Slater wrote.

To explain Columbia’s high black matriculation rate, Miller cited both Columbia’s geographic draw – Columbia, located in Upper Manhattan, is near Harlem and other black cultural centers – and a large applicant pool.

Slater, too, attributed Columbia’s high enrollment of blacks to its location.

But he also credited Columbia’s admission policies. “Columbia President Lee Bollinger has always been a firm supporter of affirmative action in admissions,” he said, adding that “since (Lee Bollinger) came to Columbia from the University of Michigan, the university’s numbers have been up,” Slater said.

Columbia admissions officials declined to comment on the study.