March 11, 2014

Cornell Officials Say Increase In Minority Enrollment Will ‘Enrich’ Classrooms

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In the last 10 years, the enrollment of underrepresented minority students at Cornell has nearly doubled, according to the Cornell University Factbook — a compilation of current and recent historical statistical information issued by the University.

In 2013, 3,446 students who identified with these underrepresented minorities — Hispanic, Black, Hawaiian and Pacific Islander and American Indian — enrolled at Cornell, a 78-percent increase from 1,936 students in Fall 2003, according to the data. This group included students who were pursuing undergraduate, professional and research degrees.

While approximately 10 percent of students in 2003 came from underrepresented minorities, that figured climbed to approximately 16 percent in Fall 2013, according to the data.

“The increased diversity strongly enhances the quality of the educational experience for everyone.” — A.T. Miller, associate vice provost for academic diversity

According to Donald Viands, associate dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and director of the college’s Office of Academic Programs, diversity of the student body is a “very high priority” in the college.

“Our admissions office makes great efforts to recruit and admit underrepresented minority students,” Viands said. “We consider diversity an essential element toward preparing our graduates for engaging in the diverse society around the world.”

The agriculture college has undergone the most significant change in terms of enrollment of underrepresented minorities. In 2003, the agriculture college enrolled 3,994 students, 346 — 9 percent — of whom were URM. This figure climbed to 879 in 2013, approximately 24 percent.

Viands also said the agriculture college has made “great strides” in recent years to increase student diversity.

“We plan to continue our efforts to further increase [diversity],” he said.

Professors say the increase in underrepresented minority students represents a marked improvement in Cornell’s diversity.

A.T. Miller, associate vice provost for academic diversity, said the higher percentage of underrepresented minority students enrolled will enhance the learning experience.

“What’s great about this is that it happened at the same time that Cornell increased its selectivity,” Miller said.

Miller added that representations of more diverse backgrounds “enrich the classroom” for all students, which especially benefits students who are underrepresented minorities.

“For those from historically underrepresented groups, reaching a critical mass where on can confidently be oneself and not be seen as a token representative of a group is enormously valuable,” Miller said. “The increased diversity strongly enhances the quality of the educational experience for everyone.”

It marks a slightly larger percentage change in the undergraduate-only student body — from 11 percent underrepresented minorities in 2003 to 19.4 percent in 2013.

Of Cornell’s seven undergraduate colleges, the School of Industrial and Labor Relations has the highest percentage of undergraduate students who are underrepresented minorities — 26 percent — followed by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, whose student body is 22.8 percent underrepresented minorities.