There were fewer black and Asian and Pacific Islander students enrolled at MSU in fall 2010 than at any point this decade, according to enrollment numbers provided by the Office of Planning and Budgets in the 2011 Data Digest.
In the report, the number of undergraduate black students enrolled in fall 2010 fell by 9 percent from 2009 — from 2,930 to 2,665 — and the number of Asian and Pacific Islander students decreased by 15 percent, falling from 1,867 to 1,587.
The numbers provided in the Registrar’s Office’s Enrollment and Term End Reports are not identical to those in the 2011 Data Digest, but show a similar decrease in the number of students from racial minorities.
One reason for the decreasing number of students from each racial group is the creation of a new category for multiracial students which was implemented for 2010 enrollment numbers, said MSU Provost Kim Wilcox.
However, he said it’s difficult to know how many of the students who identified as more than one race in 2010 would have selected black or Asian American with the old categories.
Wilcox said he and MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon have discussed ways to improve enrollment numbers for students from racial minorities, including recruiting minority students from beyond the state of Michigan, similar to other Big Ten universities.
“There’s always more we can do, and there’s always more we should do,” he said. “We’ve begun thinking about how to recruit students from all areas of the country, … and I agree with the president we have to become more effective in that vein.”
Education senior Mario Lemons, president of MSU’s Black Student Alliance, said he wasn’t surprised to learn enrollment numbers for students of color were down because most black students at MSU are Michigan residents.
Lemons said MSU has to take steps to improve the campus’ diversity instead of simply talking about it.
“One of the stereotypes is that if you see a black (student), they must be from Detroit or Flint,” he said. “Although the university talks a lot about diversity and how much they value it here as Spartans, diversity cannot be a priority for them if the enrollment for students of color are decreasing.”
Education freshman Haley Smyth said the university is obligated to admit the most qualified students regardless of race.
“Race should not matter in the population of the school,” she said.
Steve Tzeng, co-president for MSU’s Asian Pacific American Student Organization, or APASO, said he doesn’t believe the decreased number of Asian American students are being represented in the multiracial category.
Tzeng, a supply chain management junior, said the decreasing number of Asian American students has to do with the university’s rankings compared to other schools and the pressure Asian American students feel to put themselves in the best position for graduate school.
“It sounds like the university is just trying to justify why enrollment for Asian Americans is dropping,” he said. “Asian Americans are very conscious of prestige, so the fact that enrollment has dropped is directly proportional to the prestige of Michigan State.”
Ultimately, Lemons said the lessened presence of racial minorities, such as blacks, on campus affects more than the groups themselves.
“The decreasing number of African American students is not only affecting the black community, it’s also impacting the entire university,” Lemons said. “Not having as many black people to interact with serves a larger concern because it prohibits interculturalism and black-white unity and racial tolerance.”
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