Minority Enrollment Falls At Top B-Schools

by Maya Itah on

DMAC Denice

Denice Gonzalez, a future business school applicant, works with high school students from underserved communities

Denice Gonzalez is getting ready to apply to MBA programs. She’s facing the standard concerns–the essays, the GMAT–but the South Los Angeles native is also a little worried about the business school environment.

One incident from college comes to mind. “I was walking through the UCLA campus, worrying about how I was going to pay for the next quarter,” she says.

On her way, she overheard another student speaking with her parents on the phone. “She was just like, ‘Ugh, could you send me, like’—I don’t know—‘a couple thousand dollars? Because I really want that purse.’ And like, I kid you not, that was my first year at UCLA,” she sighs. “I went into my dorm, threw everything, and was like, ‘I’m going to drop out.’”

She attributes her eventual graduation to sheer stubbornness. “There are people who grew up privileged, and that’s just a part of life,” she says. “You can’t really dwell on that.”

Denice attended the Diversity MBA Admissions Conference (DMAC) earlier this August. The event is organized by the Riordan Programs Alumni Association (RPAA); the Riordan Programs prepare students from underserved communities for management careers. She calls the conference her comfort zone. “I have people from the Riordan Programs that I can always count on as a mentor,” she says. “For the smallest things—you know, what class should I take?—or the biggest things—like, I really want to drop out of this—and for them to tell me that I’m worth it and that it’s not going to happen.”

At that same conference, Consortium CEO Peter Aranda posed a challenging question on minority enrollment. The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management is the largest diversity network of its kind, aiming to increase the number of black, Native American and Latino students in top business schools. But enrollment isn’t rising as fast as Aranda would like. “Why do we even have to have this conversation?” he asks. “Why does the Consortium need to exist? From the perspective of our mission, I would love to see this organization go away because it becomes irrelevant.”

Right now, the Consortium is anything but. According to Aranda’s data, the overall enrollment of blacks, Latinos and Native Americans at top 10 MBA programs has shown little to no progress. In fact, he maintains, it has gone down by 47 students between 2003 and 2010, attributable in part to declines at several top schools, including Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business. Of course, these numbers fluctuate from year to year. At Harvard Business School, for example, the number of underrepresented minorities this year is 219 out of a total enrollment of slightly more than 1800 MBAs. But it has varied over the past ten years from a low of 182 in 2004 to a high of 225 in 2009.

Underrepresented Minorities At Harvard Business School

Source: Harvard Business School

Source: Harvard Business School

What’s largely occurring is an unspoken shift in the meaning of diversity. Years ago, the word was commonly thought to mean blacks, Latinos and Native Americans. Increasingly, admission officers think of diversity more broadly and include in their thinking international students as well as Asian Americans. That change in mindset has eased the pressure on many schools to more aggressively recruit traditional minorities.

Aranda noted that UC-Berkeley, a Consortium member, might still be seeing the consequences of California’s Proposition 209. Approved in 1996, the proposition banned public universities from considering race, sex and ethnicity in admissions. As for the rest of the numbers, he doesn’t know what to make of them. “I’m not quite sure what’s behind that,” he confesses. “In some cases, I think the smaller schools have been affected by pressure on GMAT scores, but the larger schools should be better able to absorb a wider range of GMAT scores.”

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  • FormerMarineHBSgrad

    First impression from reading this article, Denice Gonzalez needs to grow up. “She was just like, ‘Ugh, could you send me, like’—I don’t know—‘a couple thousand dollars? Because I really want that purse.’ And like, I kid you not, that was my first year at UCLA,” she sighs. “I went into my dorm, threw everything, and was like, ‘I’m going to drop out.’” Geez Denice, you are enrolled at a top public University in the greatest country in the world, your life must be real tough… You claim you will bring a diverse point of view to whatever MBA program accepts you, but in fact you are whining about how “unfair” your situation is because your parents didn’t give you a couple grand for a purse. I just don’t know you managed to survive and thrive while growing up without rich parents. This must be a first. God bless you, Denice.

  • lsablake

    Read the article again. I think Denice overheard another student making that comment while Denice herself was wondering how she was going to pay for next semester. the other student was asking her parents for a couple grand to buy a purse. Denice was wondering how she was going to pay for school even though she was working full time. She went home depressed.

  • Renault

    Exactly. She acted like a baby.

  • James

    Haha, FormerMarine, great post. Isablake, you read his post completely wrong…

  • Holaamigo

    Yes Isablake, she went home depressed because she was felt sorry for herself, that her parents couldnt afford a purse like that for her and she STILL had to pay for school herself. Boohoo Denice.

  • JP

    I don’t know if anyone else has noticed this…but B-School applications no longer ask for race. I’ve applied to three schools so far and have started applications for two others and at no point in the application categories is race requested.

  • Guest

    This argument seems to target underprivileged people and not necessarily minorities. The goal is the consortium is to diversify MBA programs with underrepresented minorities. The consortium’s missions statement does not have any reference to privilege or economic status. There are plenty of Caucasians who are from under privileged backgrounds and they are plenty of underrepresented minorities from privileged backgrounds. Why not change the consortium’s mission to help less privileged people get into MBA programs? These seems to be what you are suggesting. Where do under privileged Caucasians come into play? Why not include them on this mission?

    This is what is wrong with Affirmative Action today. Affirmative Action proponents are concentrating on under privileged minorities rather than on minorities. If anything, we should be working on giving less privileged people, regardless of race, equal opportunities. Denise probably had Caucasians who grew up in her neighborhood and had similar aspirations, but did they get any help from affirmative actions groups such as the Consortium? Probably not.

    If you want to compel a true argument, concentrate on minorities rather under privileged people.

  • DD

    So what’s a good target at a top 10 school? The 20-25% percent at Stanford sounds pretty high given that the international student group hovers around 40%. That would mean that more than a third of the US students are minorities. That’s greater than the current census demographics.

  • GetUrWeightUp

    That’s just not true. There aren’t “plenty.” The household wealth of Blacks and other minorities was decimated in the great recession when you’re looking at average figures. And we’re still not well represented in the ranks of senior management in the corporate world. It’s still very white and male. The point of the Consortium is to change that and there are several Consortium fellows who aren’t even underrepresented minorities.

  • Yep

    Why are you guys focusing on the purse? Critical thinking… the larger metaphor is that she didn’t feel like she belonged in her business school class since obviously there were some people who were not concerned about money while she was worried. If anyone has ever worried about how to pay for college, then you can understand her frustrations.

    White, black, latino, socioeconomic issues DO impact how a person experiences college and life. Students tackle on six figure debt that can only get discharged when you die or pay for it. Why is being worried about it acting like a baby?

    I believe people are taking her comment the wrong way since I bet if a white person made the exact same remark about being poor and then dealing with socioeconomic issues, trying to figure out how to pay for things, dealing with loans, wanting to drop out etc., everyone would start ranting and raving about how business schools (and other educational institutions) are bastions of privileged legacies and how we should try to make schools affordable, especially state schools.

    There are countless articles that talk about the great socioeconomic divide within the U.S and the idea that upward mobility is practically dead due to debt. Google it.

  • MichiganisGreatRossisTerrible

    Sounds just like rich mean Michig@n R0ss white kids

  • Guest

    I completely agree GetUrWeightUp, but still, the author’s argument is targeted towards the less privileged instead of minorities. He or she simply assumes that most minorities are from poor backgrounds. Being a minority myself, I find that assumption offensive. Just because I am black, does not mean that I am poor. Regardless, I would like to see Affirmative Action proponents, such as the author of this article, concentrate more on minorities rather than the under privileged.

  • differentexp

    Really? In the apps I did, they ask you to state your ethnicity but you can choose not to. But they require you to answer whether or not you’re of latino descent

  • Cringe

    Yep, I cringed at the quotation. If you’re going into the business world, you should be actively trying not to say ‘she was just like’ rather than ‘she said’. It makes her come across as very immature and the fact that she couldn’t actively try to sound mature during an interview is weird. But, like, whatever, right?

    I’m also getting bored of this author’s lack of range for articles, they’re all about the same thing but I guess it’s getting P&Q a lot of hits since these racearticles get a lot of comments. I’m kind of over P&Q now, it’s all whining.

  • JP

    Sorry there…I was wrong. Turns out the race question only pops up after you’ve selected US Citizenship. I’m an international applicant so it didn’t appear. Go figure.

  • WhatsupwithRoss

    why does R0ss have so many accusations of racism?

  • julietta

    On p.3, in the last sentence, the 25% increase quoted by Consortium CEO Peter Aranda is incorrectly calculated! An increase from 6% to 8% is a 33% increase, not a 25% increase. :) Glad Aranda is not going to b-school…

  • Brustoph

    That’s true but it’s rude.

  • Smitty

    I can relate. However, my experience may be a bit different. Several of my colleges in business school have less work experience, lower GMAT / GPA scores but are on full-ride scholarships through the consortium. They’re minorities and I’m a white male.
    While they’re going out to the bar on Friday nights, I’m working a part-time job to help feed my kids. When they graduate they’ll be able to take the risks I can’t – I’ll have a nice $1,300 / month student loan to pay off, in addition to regular bills. I have no family or friends helping to pay for my education and unfortunately I was passed on scholarship money that went to someone else because of their DNA.

  • Smitty

    “colleagues

  • Joyce Jeng

    When in the search for a MBA program or an EMBA program, the rankings of the programs are considered. However, I did also look for the diversity factor. I wanted to learn with a diverse class that was to embody the next group of leaders and I wanted to see diversity in ethnicities, professional backgrounds and gender. It offers the priceless value of multiple perspectives. I choose the University of Illinois Champaign Urbana EMBA program. They did what this article suggests, they truly looked harder and dug deeper. For that, I am grateful for the classmates I have and the unique programs this EMBA offers.

  • Dan Short

    And thems be the breaks. Unfortunately, as a white male things will not be fair for you in this front. But that’s life, things won’t be fair for the minorities you mention either. Whether you acknowledge it or not, white privilege exists and while it’s working against you in this instance, it WILL work for you in another.

    There are non-minorities who got scholarships that could have went to you, and had lower scores as well. Do you have a gripe with them? Schools look at a variety of factors when giving out money. You just have the benefit of knowing how these people got theirs.

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