University of Michigan Alumni Association Expands Scholarships for Underrepresented Students

In 2006, voters in the state of Michigan overwhelming approved a measure that banned the consideration of race in admissions decisions at state-operated universities. In subsequent admissions cycles, the number of Black students entering the flagship campus of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor dropped significantly. In 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the validity of the voter-approved measure banning the use of race-sensitive admissions.

The latest JBHE Annual Survey found that Black students made up just 4.6 percent of the entering class at the University of Michigan. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Blacks make up more than 14 percent of the population in Michigan. Therefore, Blacks are only about one third of the enrollments at the university that would be the case if racial parity were to prevail.

While the university itself has its hands ties in effort to increase diversity, the nonprofit Alumni Association of the University of Michigan is not bound by the state law banning affirmative action by agencies of the state. The association recently announced a $30 million expansion of its Leadership, Excellence, Achievement and Diversity (LEAD) scholarship program. The merit based scholarships are earmarked for students from underrepresented groups.

Steve Grafton, president of the Alumni Association, stated that “diversity makes for a better university, in every facet, which is why we felt that tripling our LEAD scholarship fund was the right thing to do. Not only does a diverse student population help minority students feel more welcome on campus, it teaches all students the value of engaging with people of all creeds and cultures. Diversity is a primary tenant of the University of Michigan’s principles and one we are dedicated to improving for years to come.”

To be eligible for a LEAD scholarship, a student must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident; have African-American, Latino or Native American heritage; have been accepted as a full-time, undergraduate student at the University of Michigan; possess a high school grade-point average of 3.5 or higher; and have an SAT score of 1220 or higher or ACT score of 27 or higher.

The Alumni Association’s goal is to award up to 75 LEAD scholarships per year by 2021.

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