Promoting Racial Diversity in Higher Education Recruiting & Marketing


By: Emma Rose Dec 27, 2018

Focusing on diversity in higher education recruiting delivers valuable benefits for both institutions and the students they educate. Diversity doesn’t happen by accident. If institutions want to increase enrollment numbers, improve student results, and generally realize the benefit of a more diverse student body, they need to implement key strategies that make their institution more attractive to students of all backgrounds.

The state of diversity in higher education

On average, Black and Latino students enroll in college at a lower rate than white students. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2016 the enrollment rate was 42 percent for people identifying as white, 39 percent for people identifying as Latino, and 36 percent for people identifying as Black. Those identifying as Pacific Islanders or Native Americans enrolled at a rate around 20 percent.

The Latino population and people identifying as two or more races were the only groups to see a rise in the percentage of enrollments between 2010 and 2016. Every other race enrolled at a lower rate. And yet, Latino students are more likely to enroll at two-year institutions than at four-year colleges. So are Black students. This means that even as enrollments by students of color increase, four-year institutions are seeing little change in their levels of diversity.

This disparity is partly driven by economics. More than 80 percent of students who identify as Black, Latino, or Asian have difficulty meeting their financial need with grants and scholarships compared to 71 percent of white students, according to the advancing diversity and inclusion report.

All of these statistics represent an opportunity gap that hurts students of all races and the institutions that educate them.

The benefit of diversity for institutions and their students

Studies have found that diversity encourages the generation of high-quality ideas, more critical analysis, and more active learning – all benefits that most institutions want to offer their students.

Students who are exposed to diverse ideas and backgrounds are more prepared for the real world. According to the Center for American Progress, people of color make up more than one third of the labor force. That means that graduates are almost guaranteed to work with someone of a different ethnic or cultural background throughout their career. By building a more diverse student body, institutions provide opportunities for better outcomes for students.

When institutions make an effort to attract a diverse range of students, they also end up with more prospects. Rather than narrowly focusing on a single type of student, institutions can pull from diverse populations to build a robust recruitment pipeline.

Over the long-term, the children of college degree holders are more likely to pursue higher education. That means that by attracting underserved populations now, institutions are investing in their own long-term success by expanding the pool of potential students for the future.

Key strategies for fostering diversity in higher education recruiting

Recruiting a more diverse range of students might require a slight change of focus for some institutions. Here are some ways that institutions can increase diversity high higher education recruiting.

  1. Evaluate marketing materials for diverse faces and voices. Students feel more welcome when they can see faculty and staff they relate to.

    Showcase diverse students and faculty to show applicants that there is a place for them at your institution. Tell the stories and share the photographs of diverse faculty and students. Let applicants see how these faculty and students are contributing to the campus community and succeeding both personally and professionally.  

  2. Develop programming and extracurriculars that support and celebrate diversity. Including diverse faces and stories in your marketing material is how you talk the talk of diversity. Developing programs and extracurriculars is how you walk the walk. These programs help students feel valued and included within your student community. Create programs that celebrate diverse cultural backgrounds, explore complex racial and cultural questions and encourage students to experience each others’ traditions.

    Highlighting these programs and activities in your marketing, helps applicants image how they will fit into your academic community. It also shows them that they will not be alone at your institution. They will have a network of supportive peers.

  1. Provide academic and personal support.  Students come from diverse backgrounds. Some may not have had the opportunity to take advanced courses or meet the challenge of a rigorous academic environment. Show students that they will be supported throughout their college career through advising, coursework support and peer networks. Make it clear that you expect students to succeed at your institution and will give them the tools and support to do so.
  2. Understand their unique financial challenges. Students also come from a range of socioeconomic backgrounds. These students may need extra help paying for school. Show them financial aid packages and opportunities to defray costs.

These are just a few of the ways that institutions can improve diversity in higher education recruitment. They are not the only ways that institutions can attract students of diverse backgrounds. The best way to recruit diverse student populations is to ask these students what drives them and listen closely to their answers.

By focusing on diversity in higher education recruiting, institutions can improve overall results, both for their organization and for the students they educate. They can get more leads, build more robust recruitment pipelines, and improve student results, which elevates the reputation of the institution as a whole.

Education Dynamics understand that increasing diversity in higher education recruiting is a necessity for the success of many institutions. Our expertise, efficiency, and effectiveness help you find prospective students of all backgrounds to maximize recruitment outcomes. Schedule your free marketing consultation today.