As we approach the 2016 Annual Meeting (8:30 am Sunday, June 12th or via webcast at http://www.nubaa.org) at The Black House, we felt you would be interested in reviewing Northwestern’s side of the story on diversity and inclusion. Attached is the 2014-15 report on “all things diversity” at the University. It is an in-depth review of effort and accomplishment that also presents ongoing (and glaring) opportunities. For this blog post, we will focus on one specific example. In the report, you will note an all-time high of 10.2% African-American admitted in 2014, while simultaneously only achieving a 6.3% enrollment rate.
In NUBAA’s surveying of students and alumni, we have sought to understand the difference between this disparity (called the “yield”), which remains the lowest among demographic groups. There appears to be one consistent train of thought to explain this disparity. Northwestern has to reevaluate its competitiveness in its administration of financial aid. First the great news: Northwestern compares favorably to most any institution in its providing aid to the indigent. those; its recent policies have virtually removed financial burdens from qualified students below a certain level of family income.
However, that is not all of the story, and this is not where the cause of the poor yield is to be found. It appears the poor yield is best and easily explained by the absence of financial aid based on merit, when most of Northwestern’s peer and peer-aspirant universities are now offering merit-based financial aid. Underappreciating the fact that not all African-Americans applying to Northwestern and in financial need are indigent is to the University’s disadvantage; competitively it must address the evolving propensity of other institutions to provide aid for students based on merit. It is of note that NU already applies this train of logic for recruitment of athletes and international students.
Regarding the report: it is increasingly disingenious to trumpet the admissions numbers for African-Americans as some record of value, knowing these numbers are not translating into students who are actually enrolling.
This again points to the rationale and need for the NUBAA Achievement Scholarship (NAS). It is the only achievement-based financial aid effort at Northwestern for African-American students. Our success with the NAS ($38,000 in scholarships in its first year) demonstrates the need and the ability to change the decisions of students who wouldn’t otherwise attend NU, as it did in three concrete examples. I have been directly told by a highly ranking University official that the single most effective way for NUBAA alumni to increase the enrollment rate is to support the NAS.
However, this is no longer just a plea to contribute to the NAS (although you can by clicking here). Northwestern must reevaluate its financial-aid strategy in the face of this ongoing failure to significantly increase the enrollment of African-Americans. The burden of increasing student enrollment when such a void exists shouldn’t fall to the efforts of alumni. When the University is able to note an increase in Latino students to 11.8%, Asian Americans to 18.5% and “multi-racial” to 5.8%, we know the University is capable.
The entire report is a laudable list of efforts, but activity isn’t necessary accomplishment. When we can identify the direct reason for a diminished conversion from admission to enrollment and are told why, the response of a sincere entity would be to incorporate these solutions. In the face of a wildly successful We Will campaign, it would seem the money could be found if the priority existed.
Please join us at the Annual Meeting tomorrow morning! More to come.