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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Though the diversity of this year's freshmen class barely tops last year's, UF President Bernie Machen said he's satisfied with the slight improvement.

Out of 6,700 freshmen, 13 percent are black, 15 percent are Hispanic, 10 percent are Asian and 59 percent are white, he told Faculty Senate on Thursday. The final headcount of enrolled students will be taken in three weeks.

"It meets the goal of trying to make our freshmen class as diverse as we can," Machen said at his State of the University Address.

This year's statistics almost match those from the first day of school in fall 2006. Of the 6,760 freshmen that year, 13 percent were black, 14 percent were Hispanic, 8 percent were Asian and 59 percent were white.

In an interview before the meeting, Machen said the success of the Florida Opportunity Scholars Program contributed to UF's diversity the past two years. The program is a scholarship for students who are the first in their families to attend college

The problem accepted 434 students last academic year, most of whom were minorities.

Machen said this year's enrollment freeze, prompted by UF's crippling debt, has hindered efforts to increase diversity.

"Until we solve the problem of having more resources for faculty, I don't think there's much that will change," he said.

There's no "magic number" of minority students UF strives to admit, said Zina Evans, director of admissions.

She said race and gender are not considered during application reviews. UF can only try to diversify the applicant pool, which would increase the chances of admitting a more diverse class.

Diversity is important because students learn better when they're exposed to people from other cultures and backgrounds, Evans said.

Despite the numbers, some students are content with the level of diversity at UF.

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"I heard that this might be a snobby school," said Stella Sadiku, a pharmacy sophomore from Nigeria. "But there's a good many black organizations to join."

She said she was surprised at how inclusive UF was, and said she's met many other Nigerian students in clubs.

Sadiku said UF may not be as multicultural as it could be, but it doesn't bother her.

"Everybody's smart here," she said. "No matter what color or what they look like."

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