Special Report

These Colleges Have the Least Diverse Student Bodies

Samuel Stebbins

Detailed Findings

Explanations for the relative lack of diversity among the schools on this list vary. One common explanation is the demographic makeup of the surrounding region and state. Many of the schools on this list are public universities that offer steep tuition discounts to students who reside in the state. These schools are in predominantly white states, such as North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. As such, their tuition structure likely contributes to racial homogeneity.

In other cases, the lack of diversity in the schools on this list is directly attributable to historical circumstances. Many of the least diverse schools in the country have majority black student bodies. These schools are located across the South and are known as historically black colleges and universities, or HBCUs. Schools like these were founded before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 with the express purpose of providing higher education to African Americans, who had little opportunity elsewhere.

Regardless of the reason the schools on this list lack diversity, a homogeneous student body can itself be self-perpetuating. According to Clark, many students want to be among other students that they can relate to.

“If you can see yourself in the faculty or in the other students, you’re more inclined to go to that institution,” Clark said. Prospective students who do not see others of the same race or ethnicity while on a tour of a given campus may be less likely to want to attend that school. “So it kind of feeds on itself too.”

Methodology

To determine the colleges and universities with the least diverse student bodies, 24/7 Wall St. ranked U.S. colleges and universities based on the likelihood that two undergraduate students picked at random would be of two different races, ethnicities, or U.S. citizenship status.

Data on racial and ethnic composition for U.S. colleges and universities came from the U.S. Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and is for the fall 2018 school semester. All race and ethnicity data is self reported. The categories included in the survey are: American Indian or Alaska Native; Asian; black or African American; Hispanic; Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander; white; two or more races; or nonresident alien.

Using this data, we calculated the index based on a diversity index originally developed in 1991 by Philip Meyer of the University of North Carolina and Shawn McIntosh of USA Today.

Supplemental data on average cost of attendance in the 2016-2017 school year, the admission rate in the 2018-2019 school year, and the size of the undergraduate population in fall 2018 also came from IPEDS.

We limited our universe to primarily bachelor’s degree granting institutions. Colleges at which more than 10% of undergraduate respondents chose not to identify as a specific race or ethnicity were excluded. Additionally, we only considered schools with at least 2,500.