2011 TC Pressroom
Teachers College, Columbia University
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TC Works to Increase Minority Enrollment

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TC Works to Increase Minority Enrollment

Melissa Black

When she began thinking about graduate school four years ago, Melissa Black had Teachers College firmly on her radar. 

Certainly Black was more than aware of TC’s prodigious reputation and accomplished faculty. But as an undergraduate at Howard University in 2004, Black, who is African American, had also met Melba Remice, TC’s Associate Director of Admission, at a minority graduate recruitment fair. Remarkably, that relationship persisted even as Black went on to graduate school at Temple University. When she decided to pursue a second master’s degree in developmental psychology, the stage was set for her to come to TC. With Remice’s advice and support, she applied, was admitted and enrolled this fall.

“Personal relationships matter,” Black said. “It’s nice to feel like someone is paying attention to your progress, and I’ve always felt that way about Columbia. Compared to the other places I’ve gone to school, which I love dearly, it’s no comparison. I don’t know if it is an Ivy League thing or not, but Columbia is very different than other places.”

Welcome to the fiercely competitive world of student recruiting, especially when it comes to minority students. It is that kind of persistence and care that has made TC one of the most diverse graduate schools of education in the country, with nearly one-third of its students from minority groups. This fall, TC launched a wide-ranging initiative to boost minority student enrollment even higher across all of its programs.

The plan calls for an aggressive outreach and marketing effort focused on a broad range of institutions that serve large numbers of minority students, and it targets advertising in various publications and Web sites.

“Teachers College has always had an appreciation for diversity and for making sure our student body and applicant pool is as diverse as possible,” said Thomas P. Rock, Executive Director of Enrollment Services. “This year, however, we’re being much more proactive in putting together some strategic outreach initiatives that will allow us to make sure we’re at events, we’re building those relationships, and we’re talking to students and stakeholders who can help us in connecting with various groups. We want to make sure we’re casting the net as wide as possible.”

The effort to increase minority enrollment comes on the heels of an entering class that helped push the overall number of minority students to nearly 32 percent, the highest in the institution’s history. In fact, TC’s minority enrollment has been steadily increasing over the years. In 1985, for example, total minority enrollment was at 18.1 percent. By 2000, the percentage had increased to 29.5 percent. This fall, minority enrollment reached 31.7 percent excluding international students (who make up an additional 14.2 percent).

As part of the new plan, admissions officers have crisscrossed the country, visiting Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) large and small, as well as Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs). They have attended minority graduate recruitment fairs and made their way into individual classes to tout TC to students one-on-one and in small groups.

“What we’ve been doing is really not only extending our visits to other schools, but also getting more involved with the schools we are visiting,” Remice said. “We’ve been focused on building relationships, because it’s important that we not just visit a school once and leave. It’s important to build that relationship and go back and visit every year and try to let students and faculty members know what Teachers College is all about.”

Building relationships is nothing new to Remice. She makes it a point to keep in touch with the students she is recruiting and, as it is important to her, those who have enrolled. In fact, it was Remice who called Black to tell her she had been admitted.

“Melba is great,” Black said. “She is very honest and is always there to answer a question or solve any problems. I saw her in the hallway last month, and she wanted to know how my classes were going and how I was doing.”

In addition to national recruiting, the Office of Admissions has also focused on New York state universities. The office analyzed TC’s top feeder schools of minority students and found that a number of City University of New York and State University of New York schools made the list.

And earlier this year, the Office of Admissions and the Office of the President, Diversity and Community Affairs published a “Student of Color Brochure” that highlights TC’s commitment to diversity. It was mailed to department chairs in educational psychology and health-related programs at HBCUs and those that serve large numbers of Hispanic students. It was also sent to select groups of minority students who took the Graduate Record Exam.

“In comparison to our competitor institutions, we are quite diverse,” Remice said. “But it’s a number that we definitely need to grow, which is why every year we try to enhance our recruiting initiatives. It’s something that we definitely need to continue to work on.”

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