UC Berkeley admits most ethnically diverse class in more than 30 years

UC Berkeley Campus
Sunny Shen/Senior Staff
UC Berkeley's push for more diversity and equity shows in its newly admitted class, which is academically comparable with past classes and includes more students of diverse backgrounds than the campus has seen in the last 30 classes.

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Under new admissions leadership, UC Berkeley admitted its most ethnically diverse freshman class in more than 30 years.

According to a campus press release, the class of 2024 includes record numbers of African American and Latinx students since at least the late 1980s. The incoming class comprises 737 African American and 3,379 Latinx students, which is more than 200 and 1,000 more students from each respective population compared to last year’s freshman class.

The campus acceptance rate remains the same as last year’s at 15%.

Since last year, undergraduate admissions director Femi Ogundele has worked to revamp prospective student outreach and evaluation. According to Ogundele, the admissions team’s efforts reflect institutionwide commitments to diversify campus, most recently demonstrated by the chancellor’s Hispanic-Serving Institution initiative.

Changes to admissions processes have taken an equity-centered approach, Ogundele added. The admissions team has revised where it visits prospective students and how it communicates the UC Berkeley experience.

“It’s important that … students know that we see them, we care about them and we want them,” Ogundele said. “There are excellent students who don’t apply to us because they are intimidated.”

Changes in applicant evaluation included adjusting the distribution of application reviews and making sure readers are prepared to recognize student talent, according to Ogundele.

Ogundele said these new processes allow the admissions team to be mindful of opportunities that individual students have and have not been afforded.

“We care more about excellence than perfection. Excellence gives way to students to show us where they’re coming from,” Ogundele said. “We don’t allow SAT scores to define a student.”

Ogundele added that the incoming class is academically “on par” with past class profiles.

Diversity and academic excellence, according to Ogundele, are not mutually exclusive.

“You can actually have a diverse class that is academically excellent,” Ogundele said. “You don’t have to compromise one for the other.”

As the admissions team navigates challenges posed by COVID-19, Ogundele hopes that it can come up with new solutions to increase equity and “cascade them out” to allow for further engagement with underrepresented prospective students.

Ogundele believes that strides for diversity and equity on campus will continue to be a work in progress. Looking forward, he hopes to engage students in the Bay Area, reach more counties across California and strengthen programming for women in STEM and students of color.

“We have some work to do,” Ogundele said. “But this class is moving us in the right direction.”

Contact Victoria Stafford at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @VictoriaStaffrd.