April 11, 2006

Admissions stresses minority recruiting

To address concerns about minority student enrollment at the U of C, Norma Lopez, director of Student of Color Recruitment at the Office of Admissions, discussed efforts to attract qualified minority applicants at an open-forum dinner with current students on April 3.

The Prospective Students Advisory Committee (PSAC) organized the dinner to familiarize current students with the recruitment process. Nina Chihambakwe, a third-year in the College and PSAC diversity chair, said many students think the University fails to recruit enough minority students, particularly blacks and Hispanics.

“We wanted to show that the admissions office is actually taking time to increase diversity recruitment,” she said.

Lopez spoke with students about many aspects of the process, including high school visits, scholarship availability, and funding for minority recruitment. In addition, she described initiatives intended to boost college enrollment among minority students, like the Collegiate Scholars Program, which works with select students in Chicago Public Schools. She said the program is an example of the University’s attempts to cultivate a pool of future applicants.

Not accidentally, the dinner preceded the arrival on campus of a large group of accepted students; the University hopes current students will play a major part in the recruitment process.

About 500 minority students were admitted into the class of 2010, Chihambakwe said. The University is flying in 300 of these students to convince them to enroll.

Students at the dinner signed up to host the prospective minority students, and PSAC attempted to match minority recruits with current students of color. PSAC provided lists detailing the hometowns and interests of the recruits so that students could choose the prospie they considered the best fit.

Chihambakwe said the approach is an attempt to personalize the recruitment process by providing potential students with the perspectives of other minorities at the U of C. Current students can significantly influence future enrollment, she said.

“It’s our responsibility as minority students to talk to minority recruits,” Chihambakwe said. “We can create a network among minority students.”

Lopez said she agrees and hopes to train minority student volunteers to act as informal recruiters who return to their high schools with information about the U of C.

Hispanic students currently make up 8.1 percent of the student body, with blacks making up 4.2 percent—both below the national averages. Lopez said the black student enrollment in particular is “something that the admissions office would like to see improve at a faster rate.”

In a 2002 report published in the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, the U of C ranked last among 26 leading universities in integrating blacks. The same journal reported that black students comprised 4.1 percent of the University in 1980, showing no significant percentage change.

Lopez said premier institutions compete for talented black students.

“Talking to our recently admitted students, I realize that we are all trying to yield many of the same students,” she said.

Chihambakwe also said top minority students are “overly recruited” at many institutions.

“We could admit more people, but we want to make sure the candidate is qualified and this University would be a good fit for them,” Chihambakwe said.

Lopez said she values student input and plans to develop stronger ties with cultural student groups to increase student awareness of recruitment efforts.

In the end, the success of these efforts will be seen next fall when the class of 2010 arrives at the University. Although a large group of minority applicants was admitted, the number of students who accept this offer is of greater concern to the Office of Admissions.