5 Questions to Evaluate Multicultural Commitment on Campus

Assistant Director of Admissions, Waynesburg University

In the early 1900s, the United States of America became known as a “melting pot”—a nation whose culture was defined by the fusion of people from differing racial and ethnic backgrounds.

Since then, some have argued the terms “salad bowl,” “mosaic,” or even “kaleidoscope” better describe the United States because they point to a country where cultures have blended but also remained distinct in certain ways. Regardless of your opinion on nicknames, it is clear that America is a diverse nation, one sure to become even more diverse in the future. Look no further than U.S. higher education to help illustrate that point.

Postsecondary schools are more diverse now than ever before. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the number of non-white U.S. residents enrolled in fall 2012 was 39.7%, 9.2 points higher than a decade earlier. Furthermore, the number is expected to increase to 43% by 2022. These enrollment figures mirror the number of non-white high school graduates, which, according to the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, will reach 45% by 2019–2020.

With an increasingly diverse landscape across the country, particularly among young people, U.S. colleges and universities are eager to equip themselves for these shifting demographics. If a commitment to fostering diversity is a “must-have” for the school you plan to attend, here are five questions to consider before formulating your list of college options.

1. Does the school say it values diversity?

Of all the research you may end up completing on the topic, this could prove to be the simplest. The vast majority of, if not all, institutions use a mission statement as the guiding light for their organization, and often the mission will come complete with a set of values or supporting information as to how the college or university seeks to implement it. Here schools might directly affirm their commitment to a diverse campus community or their calling to equip a more culturally aware student. And though one bullet point buried in the “About Us” section of an institution’s website does not guarantee a fulfillment of its stated intentions, it is, at the very least, a start.

2. Can I succeed as a student there?

Colleges and universities often need to make data-driven decisions (as most organizations do). As a result, studies abound concerning the performance of high school graduates and how that performance may correlate into success at the post-secondary level and beyond. These studies illustrate that each and every student learns in different ways and can struggle from time to time in areas such as standardized tests or high school course work. Thus, as the profile of high school graduates continues to become more diverse, colleges and universities must provide the types of services each student needs to succeed, particularly academically.

Here are a few elements to look for as you examine whether a school is equipped to help each and every student learn and prosper:

  • Available and approachable faculty
  • Preferable class sizes
  • Mentoring programs
  • Tutoring services
  • Above-average retention rates

While institutions may not boast all of the above services, those who offer the right mix show their preparedness for handling the increasingly diverse high school graduate.

3. Will the value of my education offset the expense?

When it comes to higher education, society is more financially vigilant and outcome driven than ever before. In your research, start with a school’s cost, and then dive into scholarship and financial aid options to begin determining its financial feasibility. Some colleges or universities may offer institutional funds specifically for minority and/or first-generation students. If they do not, financial aid personnel should make themselves available to guide students toward applicable outside awards.

Despite the multitude of financial aid possibilities, however, loans do become a reality for many students and eventually come due, making the outcome of your college education all the more important. Track down placement rates to find out what percentage of graduates find full-time employment or enter graduate/professional school. Then dig into what individual alumni, particularly those within your potential major, are doing now. College is an investment, so trying to ensure you have the best chance at a quality return is critical. Not only that, but placement rates, outcomes data, and alumni testimonials further illustrate how a school prepares its students for their careers and whether graduates with a background similar to yours have found enjoyment and fulfillment in their post-college lives.

4. Is there a robust student life?

Colleges and universities know they need to supplement the academic side of their campus experience with hearty student life offerings. This begins with the different types of student organizations on campus. The presence of multicultural clubs can be an indicator of how welcoming an institution is of a diverse population.

These clubs can help spearhead residence hall programs, speakers, events, or excursions that help students become aware of, learn about, and immerse themselves in various cultures. Additionally, while some schools may not offer the specific club you’re looking for, the school’s opportunities and resources available for starting a new club says a great deal.

5. Does the school value diversity in its recruitment strategies?

Admission representatives generally travel to college fairs and high schools to share information about their school. Those who regularly visit areas with a high volume of minority high school students, or those who travel internationally, likely represent a school making a concerted effort to reach a wide range of diverse students. Institutions may also seek to attend additional multicultural events and design their admission processes to accommodate students from all backgrounds.

Colleges and universities may share their commitment to diversity up front; others may not be so obvious. If not, hopefully these five questions will help you figure it out.

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