The Eagle has an article on Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts’s (MCLA) efforts to increase minority enrollment. Gina Coleman ’90 is featured at the end.

Recruiting academically viable minority students can be a difficult process, even for a school like Williams College, which draws on an international pool of applicants. The college has a minority enrollment of roughly 25 percent.

As always, this 25% figure is as interesting for what it leaves us and for what it includes. If you are an Orthodox Jew or an observant Catholic then you are certainly in the minority in America (and at Williams), but aren’t counted as a minority in this tabulation.

Of course, at some point, the whole notion of “minority” will become untenable as the percentages inexorably and naturally climb. Indeed, if the trends of the last 20 years just continue, then Williams will be majority minority in 20 years or so.

Gina Coleman, Williams associate director of admissions and director of minority recruitment, said it takes considerable time and money. She attended Williams as an undergraduate, and has a master’s in education from MCLA.

“If they’re serious about having a diverse community, then they’re somehow going to have to figure out how to garner the financial resources to go all-out and seriously pursue those students,” Coleman said.

The break-up of the pricing cartel of elite education 15 years ago has benefitted no group more than extremely talented minority (not including Asian) students. Although the issues faced by MCLA and Williams are no doubt different, Coleman is certainly correct to point out the importance of resources.

And I am pretty sure that the key issue is not how many flyers a high school student gets in the mail. Resources means money devoted to making college cheap for these highly sought after students, regardless of their family’s financial status.

Williams identifies potential applicants through a variety of means, including standardized test scores and recommendations from alumni. The college pays for them to visit the campus in the fall to meet with students and professors and learn more about the school.

I am curious about how this interacts with rules about athletic recruitment, which are quite stiff in Division III and NESCAC. Presumably, anything that the College can do when recruiting minorities it can do when recruiting athletes, otherwise all sorts of weird conflicts would arise, i.e., we can take you out for dinner, as long as you are not a football prospect.

Coleman said these visits are key to getting potential students to think about Williams. “The present students really sell the place,” she said.


But she said competition for those students can be fierce. “Nationally, there’s just not a lot of students of color going on to four-year colleges, period,” she said. “What makes us so successful is that it is an institutional priority here to have students of color on our campus. And [the administration] has put their money where their mouth is.”

When Coleman says “students of color” here she almost certainly means “under-represented students of color.” There are plenty of Asians at elite universities; Harvard is around 20% Asian. I would be very surprised if Williams gives any preferences at all (or special financial deals) to Asian students, but would be eager to know about evidence to the contrary.

Coleman said it is important that the campus agree that minority enrollment is a priority. “It can’t come from one point on campus, everyone has to buy into it,” she said. “Everyone in your campus community has to feel the urgency there.”

No doubt true. While I used to get quite agitated about this issue, it seems clear enough that, within my lifetime, Williams will reach a stage where it spends as little time worrying about the shades of purple among its students as it now spends worrying about how many students are Greek or Italian or Irish or . . . .

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