Large Increases in Black Enrollment at HMC, Pomona

The number of black students at U.S. liberal arts colleges has been increasing in the last several years as admissions officers make recruitment and yield programs for students from underrepresented demographics a priority. For the most part, the 5Cs are no exception to this trend, according to data compiled as part of a survey on black students’ enrollment at 25 of nation’s highest-ranked liberal arts colleges conducted by the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education (JBHE).

Harvey Mudd College's results in the survey show the biggest gains in percentage of black students in the first-year class. The school also had the highest yield rate for black students of any college surveyed. (This represented an increase of 12 black first-years enrolled in fall 2014 to 28 the following year.) Just three years ago, however, HMC finished in last place in JHBE’s 2012 survey, enrolling just three black students in its class of 2016.

“The HMC Office of Admission has worked over the past several years to recruit African American students to Harvey Mudd College by partnering with community-based organizations and targeting particular high schools/communties around the country,” wrote HMC Associate Director of Admissions Jamilla Johnson in an email to TSL.

For Pomona, the biggest turning point in admitting more black students was with the class of 2018, when the percentage of black students in the incoming class jumped from 8.8 percent to 13.2 percent.

“We had a modest increase in the number of Black applicants this past year, but we saw a dramatic increase in enrollment for Black students,” Pomona Associate Dean of Admissions Joel Hart said in a 2014 interview with JBHE. "We changed some of the things we do when we recruit, and we rethought our yield programs altogether last year."

The increase in yield rates has played an important role in increasing the number of black students in the schools' first-year class. Pomona had the highest yield rate of any of the colleges surveyed by JBHE in 2014, while HMC took first place in 2015. In HMC's case, the number of black applicants only increased by nine students between 2014 and 2015, but the yield rate nearly doubled, from to 26.7 percent to 47.5 percent.

For fall 2015, Pomona had the second-highest percentage of of the schools in JBHE’s survey at 14.5 percent, trailing only Amherst College in Massachusetts, where 18.2 percent of the incoming class is black. 

"In the last two years we have doubled the number of prospective applicants from diverse backgrounds who attend our Fall diversity fly-in programs and we have greatly expanded the options for admitted students from diverse backgrounds who wish to attend our Spring diversity fly-in events in April," Pomona Director of Admissions Adam Sapp wrote in an email to TSL. "These efforts take enormous amounts of time, energy and support from current Pomona students, staff and faculty. I have been particularly pleased to see the interest form current students who wish to assist us as hosts, tour guides, and ambassadors for the College."

The one exception to the increasing percentages of black students at the 5Cs in JBHE’s survey was Claremont McKenna College. The percentage of black first-year students at CMC went down between fall 2014 and fall 2015, from 6.1 percent to 3.8 percent.

Scripps College and Pitzer College were not included in the poll. If Pitzer were included, it would have tied for 12th overall for the percentage of black first-years with Connecticut's Trinity College, with 8.5 percent. Scripps would have finished 17th with 7.2 percent, between Bates College and Lafayette College.

As protests and events at CMC and the 5Cs last semester indicate, however, many students feel that simply having more students of color on campus is not enough. Many of the the demands that students at Pomona, CMC, Scripps and Pitzer presented last semester mentioned additional recruitment of students of color, but they also requested greater on-campus resources for black students and other students of color.