Let’s talk about diversity in college admission. Does the color of your skin affect your chances for admission? What about sexual orientation, socio-economic status, nationality, religion, or what state you’re from? The short answer is yes, all of these things are given consideration in the admission process. But when an admission office is looking for diversity does it undermine the academic achievements of all applicants? It’s a touchy issue marred by ignorance and misunderstanding.

A comment posted on the U.S. News “Professor’s Guide” blog “Why Does Diversity Matter at College Anyway?” states: “All this diversity, is a bunch of garbage. These are schools, not social gathering points. People need to be aware that schools are admitting people just for the sake of diversity. Hard working students who want to get an education are being denied because they are just like the rest of the students there. They should be admitted based soley [sic] on test scores and grades they have achieved in highschool [sic].”

Without delving too deep into the commenter’s opinions, his point is fundamentally flawed. In truth, a college or university cannot legally use an applicant’s minority status as the critical factor in their admittance decision according to a 2003 Supreme Court ruling on the admission procedures at the University of Michigan.

Regarding race specifically, the Supreme Court stated that while public universities could consider race in order to improve diversity on campus, they could not give an unfair advantage to applicants based on race. The University of Michigan had been accused of rigging a point system in which minorities received an automatic 20-point handicap while, by comparison, a perfect SAT score only counted for 12 points. The university has since revised its admission procedures.

But why is diversity on college campuses important to begin with; why not only admit students based on academic performance as the commenter suggests above? Peterson’s, an online education resources, has one of the better answers: “Students’ exposure to diverse views and individuals will provide them with greater personal development and challenge, broaden their perspectives, and increase their knowledge of the world as it really is.”

So what about Centre, does minority status affect admissions? Yes, but only marginally. It is important to point out that, at selective institutions, factors such as ethnicity, geography, and socio-economic background are used to differentiate among relatively well-qualified students, not to vault less-qualified students above more-qualified ones. And regarding the commenter’s opinion above, it’s based on a rather narrow idea of merit – e.g, grades and test scores alone. Our view of merit is more holistic, taking both academic credentials and personal characteristics into consideration. Students who are a bad match for the College are denied regardless of any diversity they might bring to our community.

We’ve compiled a brief list of diversity statistics below so you can see how Centre measures up.

  • 45% male and 55% female
  • 15 percent students of color (5% African American, 2% Asian, 3% Latino, 2% other, and 3% international)
  • 8% first-generation college students
  • Socio-economically diverse (with nearly 60 percent of students need-eligible)
  • Students from 40 states and 14 foreign countries
  • Led by a faculty and staff that is 11% people of color
Adam is the Digital Recruitment Specialist at Centre College in Danville, KY. This is basically a fancy way to say "he's a blogger," but Adam sits under many hats that deal with Centre's web presence. From posting images to writing blog entries, from making videos to graphic designing, he's a busy guy but couldn't think of a more exciting way to spend his day than introducing students to Centre via the web.
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