How Much Weight Should Minority Students Put on Diversity Numbers When Selecting a College?

Expert on diversity and inclusion elaborates on the diversity factors students should look at when picking a college

Students walking on an HBCU campus

Image: File

Picking the right college can be a stressful task for both parents and students. For many, the demographic makeup of a school has always played a major role in the decision making process, but for others the final decision for college boils down to the academic programs offered or the amount of financial assistance given. But with incidents such as that of the Oklahoma fraternity video, the University of Maryland fraternity email and countless other acts of campus racism going viral, the question arises about how much weight diversity numbers should play into a student’s college selection process.

Expert on diversity and inclusion in higher education institutions, DeEtta Jones, says that it’s difficult to add a school’s diversity numbers to your criteria list because many predominantly white institutions do not have minority student numbers that mirror the general population of America. Instead, Jones says college-ready students should look at not only the academics of the school, but also the infrastructure of the institution to see if it’s a right fit for them.

[Related: University of Oklahoma Fraternity Closed After Racist Video Surfaces]

“The infrastructure is often times connected to the student affairs division,” Jones tells “So things that have to do with whether or not [the school] has a diversity provost, or a vice president for diversity and equity on campus, whether or not they have advocacy offices, or a student government that’s vibrant and reaches out on diversity [issues].”

In addition to evaluating the infrastructure of a school, Jones says that students should pay attention to the school’s history of handling race relation issues. In the case of the University of Oklahoma video, Jones says the school’s quick punishment to remove the students from campus and close down the university chapter sent a clear sign that the behavior was not acceptable.

“Those kind of strong stances send really clear messages about tolerance,” said Jones. “Punishment has an impact and it does work.”

While diversity numbers and the idea of going to a predominantly white institution is on the table for some minority students, other college potentials view attending an HBCU as their only option. In the latest issue of Uptown magazine, Empire star Taraji P. Henson opened up about sending her son to Howard University after he was racially profiled at the University of Southern California. While Henson’s decision reflects that of many parents who hope an HBCU will provide a guaranteed safe environment for their child, Jones says parents and students should add one factor into consideration when setting their eyes only on HBCUs.

“What we don’t talk about very much is something called ‘internalized oppression,'” said Jones. “Sometimes black students go to HBCUs thinking here I am, I’m going to be with my people and then we’re marginalized in that setting because we’re not light skin enough or we don’t have the right kind of hair, or we’re not in the right fraternity, or our parents don’t have the right pedigree, or we’re not in this club or that club. While it’s important for us to educate people who are in the dominant group about our plight, it’s also important for us to support each other internally and realize that oppression in any direction and in any form is disastrous.”

Do you agree with Jones stance about looking at diversity and infrastructure before deciding on a school? Do you believe that HBCUs will provide a safer environment for black students than predominantly white institutions? Sound off with your opinions in the comment section below.

  • Blane Harding

    I agree that infrastructure is important but just because you have folks with diverse sounding titles doesn’t not mean the campus is embracing diverse students. Many institutions are increasing their diverse numbers and given the changing demographics this is obviously going to happen. The real test is not in the recruitment or retention numbers but in the graduation numbers for diverse students! That tells the real story and if the general population is graduating at 65% and diverse students at 45%, something is wrong!

  • Andy

    Yes to

    Yes to diversity and infrastructure in a school.

    Yes to more black courses.

    AND YES to more white courses for Black Students who believe that the teenage thug in Ferguson, Missouri was a helpless victim who was shot by a vicious policeman! ALL of the evidence proves that this thug never surrendered with his “hands up”. So let’s be balanced and have courses for those who need it as well!