Student diversity remains a priority

As the Class of 2014 becomes finalized with last-minute deciders sending in their deposits, the Office of Admissions is beginning to see what type of students will be joining the campus in the fall.

Though potential for academic success is key to Geneseo's admissions process, the diversity of the incoming class is also considered. According to Julie Meyer Rao, director of institutional research, the Class of 2013 is the most diverse in the college's history; 20 percent of students identify themselves as of color. Rao said, however, that minority enrollments have fluctuated and shown "no pattern" in recent years.

Since 1998, the Access Opportunity Program, which admits Geneseo students who do not necessarily meet the academic standards inherent to the general admissions process, has doubled from 200 to 400 students. AOP students become regular members of the academic and social campus community but maintain a relationship with the program during their undergraduate career.

Calvin Gantt, the director of AOP, noted that while the admissions department is interested in recruiting students of diverse ethnic backgrounds, highly qualified students of color are increasingly sought after by many universities and colleges who can offer generous financial incentives which Geneseo cannot compete with.

AOP is comprised of two separate programs: the Educational Opportunity Program and the Transitional Opportunity Program. EOP, established in 1968, is funded by New York State; the state sets academic and financial criteria that students must meet in order to qualify for participation.

Gantt said that EOP was created "to help bring students from underserved populations into college" and primarily serves low income and first generation students. Race and ethnicity are not considered when selecting EOP candidates. According to its Web site, the program's goal is to target students whose academic credentials may have been adversely affected during high school by economic factors.

TOP, on the other hand, is a program that was founded in 1985 and is exclusive to Geneseo. The program was created after a study of Geneseo applicants who were denied admission to the college and did not meet the economic criteria of EOP were found to be "extremely [ethnically] diverse," Gantt said.

Though Gantt has made attempts to attract the constituent of academically impressive minority students to Geneseo by admitting them through TOP, he remains "cognizant of how offering these students admission to TOP affect the dynamics of the program." He said such students "do not understand why they would need the AOP support system" and "feel that they are being stigmatized" based on their race or ethnic background.

In 2009, 36.8 percent of black students and 39.8 of Hispanics were accepted versus 40.8 percent of white applicants. In 2008, however, 44.6 percent of blacks and 49.5 percent of Hispanics were accepted versus 36 percent of whites. In 2007, admissions rates were 47.4 percent for blacks, 24.3 percent for Hispanics and 35.3 percent for whites. The acceptance rates were spread evenly across racial lines in 2006.

Gantt said that in the general admissions process, as opposed to the AOP selection, the "college is really looking at student credentials" and would not choose one student over another based on race or ethnicity.

"I wish we didn't need affirmative action in 2010, but we are facing something of an epidemic, especially when it comes to minority male students," Gantt said. "The current education system needs a complete overhaul."

TOP does not mandate any financial criteria for participation and was "specifically designed to help diversify the campus," according to Gantt. The program targets members of underrepresented racial groups and recent U.S. immigrants but also accepts incoming students who are over the age of 25 regardless of racial or ethnic background.

In order to ensure that AOP students are successful at Geneseo, they have a secondary AOP advisor in addition to an advisor within their chosen major. Gantt said that the AOP advisor "tracks [students'] progress to graduation and ensures that they are meeting Geneseo's guidelines for satisfactory academic progress." The program also offers free tutoring to students who request assistance with particular courses.