NU’s Class of 2012: Larger, smarter, but less diverse

Christina Salter

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Northwestern’s incoming freshman class is almost 100 students bigger than the Class of 2011. It boasts the highest average SAT score in school history.

But this year’s class is also slightly less racially diverse than last year’s, according to university data.

Black freshman enrollment fell from 5.5 percent of last year’s freshman class to 4.2 percent this year, the lowest level since 1995.

At the same time, Latino enrollment decreased by 0.9 percent, and Asian/Pacific Islander enrollment increased by 1.8 percent.

Associate Provost for University Enrollment Michael Mills said he was pleased that this year’s 2,075 freshmen set the bar higher for future classes with a record SAT average score of 1427. Of students who reported class rank, 86 percent were in the top 10 percent of their high school class, another record.

But the larger size of the class did not lead to higher minority enrollment, an administration goal for many years.

“The worst aspect is the drop in African American students,” Mills said. “We didn’t see it coming.”

Zach Parker, the coordinator of the student group For Members Only, said NU needs to improve its recruitment of minority students.

“It seems rather ironic that over the past two to three years I’ve heard the administration say this, while at the same time we’re seeing a decline in minority enrollment,” the Communication senior said. “There is obviously something wrong with what they’re doing when they’re continuing to do the same thing.

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results,” he said.

Parker said he wanted the administration to improve its advertising to minority students and change financial aid policies.

Mills said that increasing black representation at NU is “probably our top goal” for the class of 2013. He said that the admissions office is working on new programs to reach this goal.

NU recently joined QuestBridge, a non-profit program that provides an application for talented low-income students and matches them with top universities. QuestBridge can be used in place of the Common Application. The University of Chicago, Stanford, Yale are among the schools that use the applications. The effort is one of several new admissions strategies that may affect minority enrollment, Mills said.

ASG Academic Vice President Mike McGee said the admissions office is “making two steps in the right direction” to increase minority and low income student enrollment by joining QuestBridge and offering a no-loan option to the neediest students.

The SESP junior is a member of the NU Admissions and Financial Aid Committee, which consists of a group of administrators and undergraduate students that meets each quarter to discuss admissions and existing demographics. The committee is working to create more targeted minority recruitment, like printing a diversity brochure, he said. It is also trying to improve communication between the admissions office and the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs.

“It’s troubling to see the number going down, because it was already low to begin with,” McGee said. “From the students’ perspective, we just need to know from the administration that they care about this issue and are willing to put forth resources.”

Although the class of 2012 brings fewer black students to campus, the number of international students has increased. International student enrollment rose from 4.7 percent to 6 percent, which may be due to NU recruiters traveling abroad with more frequency, Mills said. International student enrollment has been increasing steadily over the past ten years, said International Office student adviser Nick Seamons.

“An increase in the number of international students will always augment the greater NU population because (these students) bring such a diverse background and experience for the four years they are here at Northwestern,” Seamons said.

NU offered an international student undergraduate orientation program for the first time this year, beginning four days before Wildcat Welcome. Students were able to move in early and learn about regulations, resources and cultural and academic adjustments in the U.S. and at NU.

The program included shopping trips to Chicago and plenty of time to form friendships with other international students, said Weinberg freshman Heidi van Batenburg-Stafford.

“It’s kind of amazing where everyone is from,” said the Cayman Islands native. “If we had just done Wildcat Welcome, we couldn’t have met people as well.”

c-salter@northwestern.edu

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