Special Report

These Colleges Have the Most Diverse Student Bodies

Detailed Findings

American colleges have, at least in recent years, have increased their efforts on diversifying their campuses and ensuring that students from historically underrepresented backgrounds have spaces where inclusivity is the priority.

Many schools have opened diversity and inclusion offices and started clubs for specific groups. Experts point out that broadening campus diversity is helpful to all students — not just those from historically underrepresented backgrounds.

In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., Dr. Naeemah Clark, Professor of Communications at Elon University, said, “If the only students we have in the classroom have the same exact experience then we’re not doing anyone a service by giving them the same ideas and having the same conversations that they’ve always had.”

Many of the schools on this list are large public schools that are located in relatively diverse areas, mostly in California. Colleges like California State University-Sacramento, University of California-Santa Barbara, University of Massachusetts-Boston, University of California-Davis, and more offer significant discounts in tuition for in-state students. The discounts likely help a broad array of students from nearby communities attend these schools, so the diversity in the surrounding community is reflected in the student body.

Yet a large share of the other schools on this list have very diverse student bodies for the complete opposite reason. Ivy League colleges like Columbia and Cornell are on this list, as do several other elite colleges, like Massachusetts Institute of Technology and New York University. While many schools have to accept a vast majority of applicants, these prestigious universities only take in a fraction of prospective students. When deciding which to admit, these schools can ensure that they have a diverse student body to contribute to the overall quality of the college experience for all of their students.

It is important to note that the questions students answered for this survey are not perfect. It can be difficult for surveys to account for the entire identity of multi-racial students, like those with Afro Cubana heritage. “There’s all these intersections of identity that aren’t really picked up on the form. I don’t know when we’re going to address that, but it’s worth conversation.” Clark said.

Methodology

To determine the colleges and universities with the most 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.

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