March 29, 2007

Schools Increase Black Enrollment

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On Tuesday, March 6, The Washington Post published the results of a study co-authored by Princeton University and the University of Pennsylvania regarding the increasingly common university practice of bolstering black student enrollment numbers by admitting black immigrant students in place of African-American applicants.

The findings of the study show that many elite universities have increased the percentage of black students enrolled in their schools by bringing in more immigrants from Africa, the West Indies and Latin America. According to the study, which was printed in the American Journal of Education, black immigrants make up more than a quarter of black students at Ivy League and other top universities.

The study puts forth a number of explanations regarding the large enrollment of black immigrant students. Among the findings were that black immigrants tend to come from the upper classes of their countries and can afford to immigrate to the United States and seek a higher education, giving them an advantage in the admissions process as they can afford test preparation courses.

Although the study found that many top universities admit black foreign students to bolster black enrollment percentages, Cornell may be an exception. Cornell University does not ask students to indicate any information beyond their race on admissions applications, said Robert Harris, vice provost for diversity and faculty development.

“Top universities have always attracted a diverse student body,” Harris said.

Harris also noted that it is not unusual for students from other countries who come from a higher social class to attend top universities and that this study may be attempting to create controversy where none exists.

Prof. Camille Z. Charles, sociology, University of Pennsylvania, a co-author of the study, said in The Washington Post, “A lot of these institutions have been promoting the increase in their black populations, but clearly this increase reflects a growth in their black immigrant populations.”

According to the study’s co-authors, their most provocative finding was that, “To white observers black immigrants seem more polite, less hostile, more solicitous and ‘easier to get along with.’ Native blacks are perceived in precisely the opposite fashion.”

According to Prof. David Harris, sociology, in order to assess whether or not the findings of the study are problematic, it is necessary to determine, “what’s the goal. Is this about one’s citizenship and ethnicity, and to what extent is it to be perceived by others?”

“Diversity is good anyway your look at it,” said Ola Williams ’10, Black Students United representative. “It’s just when people look at it to make their college more appealing, it takes a turn.”

Williams elaborated, “This is a place where everyone comes to live to embrace cultures. You have to want to diversify so when you are on campus, you can’t just stick to one community.”