Emory strives for diverse enrollment

John Latting is assistant vice provost for undergraduate enrollment and dean of admission for Emory University.

In a recent column, Emory University alumnus and Clayton County math teacher Alex Dawson asked, “Why are so few of my students attending Emory or Georgia Tech?”

Dawson is correct in advocating that top-tier universities like Emory play a role in reversing the disturbing trend of decreased socioeconomic mobility in our country, especially for low-income, high achieving students.

Providing access to an Emory education for our nation’s best students, regardless of socioeconomic status, is essential to our recruitment, enrollment and financial support of each class. We care greatly about the different perspectives students bring to the classroom, and consider all forms of diversity — including demographic, geographic and socioeconomic — to be critically important to our liberal arts educational mission.

In seeking top students from all backgrounds, we look for those who can benefit most from an Emory education and can contribute to our community of scholars. We also work to reduce the barriers to get them here.

Emory College’s commitment to need-blind admissions for first-time, domestic, dependent students and meeting their full, demonstrated financial need is unusual in the national context; fewer than 50 colleges and universities do so. “Need blind” means family income or financial aid need is not considered during the admissions process.

We also seek to reduce other barriers, such as waiving application fees and covering travel costs for campus visits for families who need it. Our Essence of Emory program gives admitted, underrepresented students the opportunity to experience Emory over three days prior to making their college choice.

For those who are admitted, we give them the necessary support to attend. Our nationally recognized financial aid programs like Emory Advantage provide significant grants in place of loans for families making less than $50,000 assessed income a year, and significant loan relief for those making up to $100,000. In addition, about 23 percent of our students in 2011-12 received federal Pell Grants, which are targeted for lower-income families.

In Atlanta, one of the most diverse cities in the country, recruitment of local students is especially competitive with our peer institutions. Across the nation, the recruitment of high-achieving, underrepresented students has changed and expanded in recent years, with programs that are helping to open the doors for these students.

Our participation in national programs like QuestBridge, which connects low-income, high-achieving students with educational and scholarship opportunities at leading colleges and universities, has brought outstanding students to our campus who might otherwise have gone elsewhere. We have welcomed to our campus dozens of Gates Millennium Scholars from Georgia and around the nation who have chosen Emory for their education. And locally, Emory offers merit scholarships for outstanding students in the Atlanta Public Schools.

Our admissions officers actively recruit at public and private schools across the state and the metro Atlanta region, including APS and Gwinnett, DeKalb, Cobb and Clayton counties, which consistently yield successful students for us.

To better reach outstanding local students who might think Emory is out of reach for them, admissions staff members network, attend college fairs and provide workshops for a host of agencies, including Upward Bound, the Division of Family and Children Services, 100 Black Men of Atlanta, Success 360 and other community-based organizations that nurture, identify and encourage top students to pursue their college dreams.

Admission to Emory is no doubt competitive, but it is a realistic goal for the very best metro Atlanta students from every income bracket, and one that many attain every year. A family’s socioeconomic status should not be a barrier to admission or enrollment, and it is one the university is committed to overcoming for students who want an Emory education.

John Latting is assistant vice provost for undergraduate enrollment and dean of admission for Emory University.