The student population at Grand Valley State University has maintained its predominantly white ethnic background, according to data from the Office of Institutional Analysis (IA).
The Fall 2011 enrollment report collected by IA found that of the university’s 24,662 enrolled students, 91.1 percent self-indentified as white.
Black students make up the largest minority, with 6.3 percent of the total student body, up from 5.1 percent in Fall 2006. Students of a Hispanic or Latino background make up the next highest minority at 3.8 percent of the total population.
There is little difference in the minority breakdown between the undergraduate and graduate student body.
Lynn “Chick” Blue, vice provost and dean of academic services, said that the university is making a “huge concerted effort” to attract more students of minority ethnic backgrounds to GVSU with a focus on targeting students of Hispanic heritage.
“In our recruitment efforts, we have a minority recruitment plan,” Blue said. “It’s all about visiting the right high schools and having the right contacts within a city. One that we’re working on really hard is to figure out where the best schools are to find students of a Hispanic background. It’s work, it’s research to figure out where the right places are, the right events, what those families are looking for and how can we help them with financial aid.”
Blue said she was not surprised that white students continue to be the most prevalent at GVSU.
“White students are in the majority in the state of Michigan,” she said. “When you look at the students who are college-ready by ACT or SAT standards, the greater numbers are white students. That doesn’t mean that we are just working on white students. We’ve made great progress in attracting ethnic and racial minorities in the past several years, great progress in this past year. I don’t think that one means we are not doing something for the other.”
In 2010, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that of the population of 9,883,640 people living in Michigan, 78.9 percent were white, up 6.5 percent from the national average of 72.4 percent.
Bart Merkle, dean of students at GVSU, said the university is actively working with the city to recruit more minority students in general for the university.
“We’re doing everything we can to support the admissions staff in their efforts to diversify our enrollment and it’s an ongoing challenge,” Merkle said. “There are a number of programs that we are involved in, or at least through my division, that are trying to work with students in high school. There is a gear up program that we are working with students in Grand Rapids on.”
Christina Brown, president of the Black Student Union, said she was asked by the Admissions Office to recruit students from Grand Rapids Community College after talking with their BSU counterpart.
“I know from having friends working within admissions is that they are having more African American students doing tours and working with the new intake of students,” Brown said. “Admissions reached out to me to go to GRCC and communicate and talk with their BSU there to see if some of those students there would be interested in transferring to Grand Valley. I don’t necessarily think that they are doing everything possible.”
Brown is also disconcerted with the slow growth rate of minorities on campus, as well as the area.
“To say the least Allendale is not the friendliest area, it’s not the most comfortable place to be in,” she said. “Being an African-American person and being highly involved with the community and being active in the town that we stay in, I don’t feel like we’re welcome. I don’t feel like the campus is doing everything — they’re not pulling out all the tricks to get that minority group here because the numbers don’t lie.”