Academic quality and diversity often go hand in hand, with the most diverse colleges offering students a chance to prepare for work in an increasingly global economy. While diversity is often centered around cultural and racial differences, other issues — like economics — are also important and can seriously impact a student’s experience at an institution of higher education. While there is no perfect formula for diversity in higher education, nor a perfect model, students who attend a university with greater diversity enjoy benefits their counterparts at more uniform schools may not. This includes an enriched educational experience and greater cultural understanding.
The majority of American colleges work hard to attract students from a wide range of backgrounds, and are quite successful at it, too. Big names like Rutgers and MIT rank among the most diverse schools in the nation, but others lag behind in the diversity of their students. Here, in no particular order, we’ve listed 11 schools that could use some help in attracting students from a wider range of ethnic, religious, economic and cultural backgrounds.
- Brigham Young: This Utah-based Mormon school is fairly religiously uniform, with only 1.4% of students belonging to a religious group other than Mormonism. This is to be expected, and a religiously-focused school can’t really be faulted for only attracting students of that religion. What Brigham Young lacks in diversity in religion, however, is also matched in lack of diversity in race. The student body at Brigham Young is 86% white, and fewer than 3% of students are international. This lack of diversity is also reflected in the faculty, which is predominantly male (79%) and white (95%). The school is actively working to improve diversity, however, and is working with college application counselors across the nation to attract more minority students to its top-ranked business and law programs.
- Washington University, St. Louis: The Chronicle of Higher Education ranked Washington University dead last in terms of economic diversity. At this private school, only 5.7% of the student body receives Pell Grants, a federally subsidized scholarship for low-income students. Many worry that the low instance of grants obtained by students at the school indicates an income disparity among those in attendance, with few coming from low-income backgrounds. While the Washington school may want to take additional measures to address its economic diversity, the school is on solid ground when it comes to other forms of diversity, with students and faculty that come from a wide range of backgrounds.
- Yeshiva University: Looking for the school that performed the worst on U.S. News and World Report‘s college diversity rankings? Yeshiva University earned that bottom spot, with a diversity index of just .02. While many religiously-focused schools have low rates of diversity, Yeshiva’s beats out the rest by a large margin. Ironically, this largely homogenous school is located in one of the most diverse cities in the world, New York, catering to the needs of Orthodox, male students who wish to combine their academic studies with religious learning. Diversity is such an issue at the school that a recent attempt to start a tolerance club at the school, with the goal of helping students better relate to others outside their social and religious group, was the subject of some controversy.
- South Carolina State University: As a historically black college, it isn’t a huge surprise that this school has a small amount of diversity. As of 2011, it is the only state-funded historically black university in the state of South Carolina. Of the school’s 4,000 students, over 96% are African-American, with the remaining 4% being white or of mixed race. It currently has no international students. The faculty at the school displays a bit more diversity, with 64% being African-American, 10% Asian-American and 26% white. Like many other historically black schools, such as Fisk University, the school is aiming to attract students from underrepresented groups.
- South Dakota State University: The largest university in South Dakota, this school is home to almost 13,000 students in all. Yet despite having such a large student body, the school ranks low on diversity, earning the fourth worst spot on U.S. News and World Report rankings. While the school attracts students from a wide range of economic backgrounds, it doesn’t do as well in terms of ethnic diversity. Eighty-eight percent of the students are white, with African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Hispanics and international students each making up 1% of the colleges population. The largest minority on campus is Native Americans, who only account for about 2% of the total students. The faculty at South Dakota State also lacks diversity, with 86% of professors being white. Things aren’t much better at North Dakota University, where the student diversity is about the same but faculty diversity is better, with 12% of professors from minority groups and 11% are international.
- South Texas College: In 2007, 81% of South Texas residents were of Hispanic ethnicity, not especially surprising given the region’s proximity to Mexico, but much higher than the rest of the state. This demographic data translates directly into the makeup of educational institutions in the area, including South Texas College, a community college with several branches across the region. More than 95% of the school’s students are Hispanic, with only 4% white and less than 1% being Asian- or African-American. The faculty is a bit more diverse, with professors from a wider range of backgrounds, but overall the school is considerably less diverse than even the already non-diverse region within which it is located.
- Michigan Technological University: Michigan technological University knows it has a diversity issue, knows it may be detrimental to what they’re trying to accomplish with the school, and they’ve created a plan to help remedy the situation. Yet as of today, the Michigan school’s student body isn’t too diverse. Minority enrollment makes up less than 4% of the student body, and only 22% of the school’s almost 6,000 students are female. Things don’t improve when you look at faculty diversity either, with very few female or minority staff members. Because of this, the university created and implemented a plan to help bring more diversity to the school, aiming to add more students and faculty from differing backgrounds, not only in race and gender, but in other forms of diversity as well.
- University of Maine: This Maine school is one of the lowest ranking in terms of diversity from the region. Both the student body and the faculty are fairly homogenous, with 75% of students and 85% of professors being white. The school also draws in few international students and teachers, with just 2% and 4% in attendance, respectively. Of course, the lack of diversity at the university is likely largely representative of a lack of diversity in the state of Maine itself, but it has been detrimental to the school. Minority students and faculty sometimes leave after only a few years to pursue opportunities elsewhere. All hope is not lost, however, as the school is aware of its diversity issues and is making strides in creating a more diverse faculty and student body in the coming years.
- Utah State University: Utah State University fares better than many other schools on this list in bringing in international faculty and students, but in overall diversity the school’s stats are still pretty telling. With 85% of students and 84% of teachers being white, there isn’t a lot of diversity on campus. Additionally, many, if not a majority, of students on campus come from one religious group (Mormonism), adding to the feeling of uniformity many students find disheartening on campus. The school hasn’t turned a blind eye to this diversity issue, however and in 2010 created a diversity council with the goal of making the campus a more friendly and attractive place to individuals of all backgrounds.
- Concordia College at Moorhead: Whether it’s due to its affiliation with an evangelical church or its location in upper Minnesota, this school attracts very little diversity. How little? The school’s population is overwhelmingly Caucasian, with more than 91% of students belonging to this racial group. The school fares better than others, however, when it comes to international exposure, with a thriving international exchange program that draws in students from countries like China, Germany and Japan.
- University of Iowa: While there are schools less diverse than this one, it’s surprising to see such a highly ranked university (72nd in the nation) with such low levels of diversity. U.S. News and World Report gave the school a diversity score of just .19, putting it in the bottom 20 national universities for diversity in the nation. The Iowa school’s student population is 82% white, 2% African-American, 4% Asian-American, and 3% Hispanic. It draws in a fair amount of internationals, however, especially in the faculty, where 12% are foreign-born. The school has been making a major effort to improve diversity, however, and in 2008 a key factor in choosing a new provost was what he or she could do to improve diversity at the school. While things are improving, the school still has a long way to go.