There’s no hard evidence that admissions officers are unwilling to take these stories into account. Still, schools have been asking for fewer and shorter essays, and mainstream rankings don’t give them much incentive to give the content of those essays serious thought. U.S. News’ ranking, for example, weights metrics like GPA and GMAT scores at nearly 25 percent. “I think that the schools are actually trying to evaluate students the right way, but they’re under tremendous pressure, because the ranking systems don’t necessarily measure the right way,” Aranda says (see: Why Are Minority Applicants’ GMAT Scores Still Lagging?).
“SENDING THE ELEVATOR BACK DOWN”
Another factor the U.S. News ranking uses is the mean starting salary and bonus of graduates. It’s weighted at nearly 15 percent. Aranda takes issue with this metric as well. “If you have a program that sends 25 percent of their graduates to the nonprofit world, should that program be penalized in the rankings?” he asks.
Jose Franco, an analyst at California School Finance Authority (CSFA) who will also be applying to business school, guesses that minority students from underserved communities are more likely to pursue the less lucrative socially conscious route—and perhaps avoid business school altogether. “We’re not educated—at least I wasn’t, when I was in undergrad—as to how you can leverage business or a business degree to also help people,” he says. “I think if we’re able to change that thought process in minority students at the undergrad level and making them understand that you can help people through business as well, I think that’ll change the course that ultimately business school cohorts look like.” Franco himself plans to start a chain of charter schools in California’s Central Valley, where he grew up.
Once she gets her MBA, Gonzalez plans to start a nonprofit. “I had so many nonprofits help me, and I feel like there’s a lot of kids still like me out there,” she says. “There need to be people from the community—you know, people that grew out of the community—to come back to the community and make a difference.”
Lopez echoed this idea, though she plans to give back in a slightly different way. “I feel like you always need corporate sponsors or people in corporations who are going to kind of lobby for you,” she says. “I always hear this kind of—maybe it’s overused—phrase: ‘Sending the elevator back down.’ I truly believe that the only way that change can happen is by getting on that elevator and moving up.”
“THE SYSTEM IS GETTING IN ITS OWN WAY”
How can business schools enroll more minority applicants—and encourage them to apply in the first place, for that matter?
Aranda doesn’t think the responsibility lies with admissions officers. “They’re between a rock and a hard place,” he says. “They have to perform.” Instead, he believes higher level staff should take a stand. “Boycott the rankings,” he says. “Not the rankings in total. Just certain parts of it. They don’t even have to go that far. You know, I think that the schools should have a voice. I don’t think there’s anything evil about U.S. News, or Businessweek, or anyone else who publishes a ranking system . . . But I think they should also look harder and dig deeper.”
He feels that diversity is a metric worth adding to the rankings. “The supreme court agrees with me,” he says. “They think it’s a compelling state interest. Not just for brown people to have opportunities—that’s not what they mean—they mean that it’s important for that class profile to be diverse, to include Caucasians men and women, African-American men and women, on and on, because we learn from each other and it makes our country stronger.”
Franco does think business school admissions departments could extend their reach. “Most schools go to San Francisco and LA, but nobody ever goes to like, Fresno, which is the area that I’m from,” he says. “And I think that would also make people feel like you know what? They’re reaching out to everyone.”
Lopez feels that the responsibility on that front is personal. “Overall, it just comes down to just me as an individual going to my community and making sure that I know—and let other people know—that this is available,” she says.
Whatever the right approach is, one thing is certain. If the current patterns continue, organizations like the Consortium will exist for a very long time. “I think the system is getting in its own way,” Aranda says. “When I started at the Consortium, we were closer to 6% across the top 50 and we’re at 8 now, so, you know, hey, that’s a real improvement. 25% in ten years. But we could go so much faster.”