CSU has reevaluated its definition of diversity and has expanded its outreach programs statewide, thus achieving a significant increase in minority and overall application rates for fall 2011.
â€œOne of the huge mistakes that weâ€™ve made in the past is how we define diversity,â€ said Vice President for Diversity Mary Ontiveros. â€œThereâ€™s more to diversity than simply minority groups â€” such as first generation and low-income students. If you define diversity narrowly, you address only a segment of a community instead of the entire community.â€
According to a press release, CSU has reported 3,700 applications from diverse students, a 33 percent increase from last year. In this same time period, applications from in-state and out-of-state students increased by 6 and 19 percent, respectively, with international enrollment seeing a 82 percent increase.
Officials caution that itâ€™s too early in the enrollment period to know whether these application rates will tremendously alter CSUâ€™s make-up, given that many acceptanceletters havenâ€™t been mailed to students. According to Ontiveros, however, the results are promising.
â€œThereâ€™s still work to be done, certainly,â€ Ontiveros said. â€œEven though we may not have a huge budget dedicated to the recruitment of new students, weâ€™re doing a very, very good job.â€
According to Ontiveros, CSUâ€™s past definition of diversity needed to include more groups of students. Rather than simply focusing on racially diverse students, as has been the case in the past, â€œdiversityâ€ has also been expanded to cover first generation and low-income students.
To cater to these students, CSU has launched various outreach programs and recruitment efforts, including the Commitment to Colorado.
The Commitment to Colorado program was specifically implemented to benefit lower- and middle-class families and covers half the cost of tuition for families making less than $57,000 a year â€” the median income in Colorado. Students eligible for federal Pell Grants do not owe any tuition to the university.
In addition, CSU has partnered with the Colorado Department of Education and the Colorado Department of Higher Education to encourage high school juniors to send ACT test-score information to at least one school. This, according to a press release, resulted in a higher percentage of diverse, low-income and first-generation students providing information to higher education institutions, allowing more preemptive outreach.
â€œA big part of our job here is showing students from places like Denver that Fort Collins isnâ€™t too remote. Many of them think that weâ€™re pretty much Siberia,â€ Ontiveros said. â€œOutreach programs and getting people out here give us the chance to change peopleâ€™s perception.â€
The ultimate goal of diversity outreach programs such as these, according to Ontiveros, is to reach the point where CSUâ€™s demographic make-up is equivalent to that of the state.
â€œOne of the best parts of having a great big, diverse campus is that it actually is like the real world,â€ said Executive Director of Admissions Jim Rawlins. â€œYou donâ€™t want to only meet people who look like you and act like you.â€
This year marked the fourth consecutive year of increasing enrollment rates, with a record 16,000 applications sent to the admissions department prior to the Feb. 1 priority deadline, a 10 percent increase from last year.
â€œAt this point, itâ€™s difficult to explain the increase in the application rate,â€ Rawlins said. â€œOnce we have a better idea for who will actually attend CSU next year, it will be interesting to see where weâ€™re at.â€
News Editor Allison Sylte can be reached at email@example.com.