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Editorial: Beyond the numbers

When enrollment data surfaced for the class of 2012, Brown struggled in terms of diversity. In particular, Brown's enrollment of black students ranked second-to-last among Ivy League schools — only 6.7 percent of the class of 2012 is African-American. A disappointed Herald editorial last February noted a more disturbing long-term trend:  While almost every Ivy League school had seen an increase in African-American enrollment over the past two decades, Brown's number had stayed constant.

Recently, Brown's admission office has proactively sought to recruit a more diverse student body. Some of the earliest results of these enhanced efforts — data for applicants to the class of 2014 — suggest that the trend may soon start to change. The Herald reported last week that applications from first-generation college students increased 40 percent over last year, while applications from Latino students grew 42 percent and the number of African-American applicants jumped 48 percent.

We were absolutely elated to see such staggering improvements in such a short period of time. Diversity is one of the hallmarks of a vibrant, empathetic and intellectually stimulating institution, and we applaud the Admission Office's aggressive efforts to respond to the discouraging data of past years. The increase in first-generation college students shows that Brown is interested not only in racial diversity, but in diversity of socioeconomic status and family background.

In an interview with the editorial page board, Dean of Admission Jim Miller '73 said that he was considerably disheartened by the low minority enrollment rate for the class of 2012. Dean Miller deserves praise for leading what he described as a "targeted effort" to recruit first-generation and minority students. This year the University increased mailings, spent significantly more time in minority and underprivileged communities, and emphasized Brown's robust financial aid and the support for students available through the Third World Center.

The University's participation in the QuestBridge consortium — which assists low-income students in securing admission and scholarships at top schools — also helped diversify the applicant pool. In addition, we commend President Simmons for sending a letter to prospective applicants describing her own college experience as an African-American woman and a first-generation student.

Of course, Brown is not the only school actively seeking students who will provide both talent and diversity. An article in USA Today last week highlighted some of the ways other schools are recruiting Hispanic students in particular. The University of Pennsylvania now conducts information sessions in Spanish, and Bryn Mawr College recently created a Spanish-language version of its website. These bilingual efforts are important to appeal to parents who may be more comfortable communicating in Spanish.

Dean Miller noted that Brown's Admission Office is also a bilingual operation. It has hired numerous admissions officers fluent in Spanish and assigned them to areas of the country with large Latino populations. It also adds small, handwritten paragraphs in Spanish to select acceptance letters. However, considering what other schools are doing on this front, we hope that the University will expand its efforts.

Presently, though, the challenge is ensuring that this year's increase in minority and first-generation applicants translates into enrollment. As the Herald reported last year, Brown's African-American population is relatively small mainly because few accepted African-American students matriculate. We know that Brown is a great place to go to school for students of all backgrounds, and we hope that the Admission Office conveys this message especially clearly to potential members of the class of 2014. 

Editorials are written by The Herald's editorial page board. Send comments to



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