The incoming freshman class is one of the most racially diverse classes American University has ever seen.
Over 30 percent of the students in the Class of 2015 are of a domestic minority, up from 23 percent last year, according to preliminary estimates from Director of the Office of Admissions Greg Grauman. That includes anyone who self-identifies as Black or African-American, Hispanic or Latino, Asian, American Indian, Native Hawaiian or Alaskan or Pacific Islander.
More specific information will be available after the AU Office of Institutional Research and Assessment completes a student census by the fifth week of classes.
Grauman said the increased diversity is the result of various efforts by the University to increase minority enrollment.
The University had used more financial aid funds for need-based scholarships instead of merit-based awards. Representatives from the University also recruited in different regions of the United States and at different high schools with more multicultural students.
“Diversity is an important component of a university education, and American University is committed to closing the education gap for underrepresented minorities seeking and completing higher education,” Grauman said in an email.
In addition to the increased racial diversity, the increase of need-based aid will also further the economic diversity of the student body, Student Government President Tim McBride said. Making AU’s education more affordable allows those without the means to pay for full tuition to attend, he explained.
“It’s the sign of a thriving school that’s breaking down glass barriers towards … opportunity and education,” McBride said.
This year’s freshmen also had a high school grade point average of 3.9, better than the Class of 2014’s 3.87. This is the fourth year in a row that the new freshman class had a higher GPA than its predecessor.
AU prepares professors for diverse student body
In response to the increased diversity, the University is strengthening the programs that facilitate discussion among different racial, socioeconomic, political and religious groups on campus. Mentorship programs for first-generation college students and facilitated dialogue groups help foster a more welcoming environment, according to Fanta Aw, assistant vice president of Campus Life and director of International Student and Scholar Services.
Administration personnel are also advising professors on the challenges that come with a more diverse student body through New Faculty Orientation and voluntary seminars, said John Doolittle, an associate director at the Center for Teaching, Researching and Learning and a professor in the School of Communications. Faculty and staff are being taught to be sensitive to the views of students who come from different political, economic, social or cultural backgrounds.
“For some of us who have been around a long time, we think we know the landscape of our student body in the classes that we teach,” Doolittle said. “But what we’re hearing is it’s changing.”
AU, SG aim to decrease event fees
Administration officials are also advocating for more free or subsidized events.
“With the socioeconomic diversity, not all students have the same access to resources, and so we’re creating programs and others that are not going to basically result in additional fees and charges to students,” Aw said.
The administration has a responsibility to help students, Aw said. Though student programs are better for gaining traction among their peers, the University is still expected to create the infrastructure through which student-led initiatives can take place, she said.
“Students have good ideas about what I think speaks to their peers and what matters to their peers, but at the same time, it is up to us, the administration, to create the opportunities and the right structure for it,” Aw said.
The Student Government is already working to create those opportunities. McBride and other student leaders have been working this summer to create a multicultural coalition of AU student groups.
McBride is also advocating for ways to help students pay for SG election campaigns, giving more students the opportunity to have a voice in University policy.
Last year, some SG candidates spent close to $300 of their own money on campaign materials, The Eagle previously reported.