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Is diversity still a hot button issue at the top business schools?  The numbers tell the story.

 By Ben Feuer

For years, being a URM at a top business school was a silver bullet, guaranteeing better school options and more scholarships.  But the times, they are a-changing.  As far back as 2005, there were indicators of declining black enrollment at top schools -- particularly California schools like USC Marshall (1.5 percent) and Berkeley Haas (1.4 percent), where Proposition 209 has banned consideration of race and sex in the admissions process.

Today, the definition of diversity is shifting, according to Poets and Quants.   "Years ago, the word was commonly thought to mean blacks, Latinos and Native Americans. Increasingly, admission officers think of diversity more broadly and include in their thinking international students as well as Asian Americans. That change in mindset has eased the pressure on many schools to more aggressively recruit traditional minorities." 

Taking the U out of URM does, of course, make recruitment a simpler process, but does it create the best learning environment for students?  There is no definitive answer to this question.  That said, the absolute top ranked schools (Stanford, HBS, and to a degree, Wharton) are still aggressively courting URMs and trying to create situations that make it possible for them to attend business school.

Other, lesser ranked schools are looking to close this gap by increasing their appeals to international students, particularly students hailing from Africa.  Oxford's Said school sees this as a definite growth area, and some international schools like CEIBS have set up campuses in Ghana.  This, however, will be scant comfort to Western minority students left out in the cold by globalization.

Some say that diversity should be added to the US News rankings as a counterweight to the 'drag' on GRE/GMAT numbers that schools face when they admit URMs.  Others say schools should devalue rankings -- but whether or not schools pooh pooh them, students will still use them.

So what does this mean if you are a URM applying to business school today?  Don't count on special treatment.  More than ever before, differentiation and a strong, well researched application strategy are becoming must haves for every candidate, URM or no.

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