Percentage of College Applicants Who Decline to Divulge Their Race is on the Rise

In recent years many students have become reluctant to disclose their race on college applications. A new study by the James Irvine Foundation's Campus Diversity Initiative finds that in 2001, 5.9 percent of all college students declined to disclose their race on their application form. This is up from 3.2 percent in 1991. The study concludes that the vast majority of those students who decline to divulge their race on the college application form are white.

JBHE has conducted an analysis on the percentage of students at the nation's highest-ranked colleges and universities who have not divulged their race. At many of the nation's highest-ranked universities, a far greater proportion of their undergraduate students than the national average of 5.9 percent are listed on the Department of Education's enrollment data as having no racial classification. For example, in 2004, according to the official figures Columbia University reported to the U.S. Department of Education, 14.9 percent of the student body had not been identified by race. At Brown University, 14.4 percent of the students are classified as "racial unknowns." In fact, at seven of the nation's 29 highest-ranked universities in 2004, at least 10 percent of the student body, according to JBHE's count, has not been racially identified.

JBHE research also demonstrates that the number of students who decline to divulge their race is on the rise. At 15 of the nation's 29 highest-ranked universities, the percentage of racial unknowns increased from 2001 to 2004.  The largest increase was at the University of Chicago. In 2001, the university reported racial data for all of its undergraduate students. In 2004, 9.5 percent of the student body was listed in the race unknown category.


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