Nestled quietly in the lush green farmland of central New Jersey, Princeton University is one of the smaller and more modest Ivy League schools in the country. But thanks to a new $20 million gift from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the school could also soon become a leader in the world of diversity and inclusion, welcoming a growing number of first-generation, lower-income diverse students.
Melissa Korn of The Wall Street Journal reported that Princeton is developing a new center focused entirely on diversity and improving access and opportunities for otherwise underrepresented students. It will be funded entirely by the Bloomberg Philanthropies donation.
“[The Emma Bloomberg Center for Access and Opportunity] will house a range of existing programs like targeted summer orientation, mentoring, social activities and workshops on topics like choosing a major and translating professors’ jargon,” Korn reported. “The center will also serve as a base for research to determine the most effective support mechanisms for first-generation and low-income students and how they can be used by colleges nationwide.”
According to Khristina Gonzalez, an associate dean, the director of programs for access and inclusion at Princeton and the center’s future head, the ultimate goal of the new program as a whole is to share findings and create a roadmap that can help other universities scale up their own inclusion and recruiting efforts — work designed not just to bring in a pool of more diverse students but also to get them “through and beyond the university.”
Angel Pérez, chief executive of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, told The Journal that she is incredibly impressed by what’s she has seen of the school’s program so far. “They are making a commitment to helping other institutions do this kind of work and inspiring other institutions in this direction,” she said. “That’s where I think it could be a national movement.”
The center is named after Emma Bloomberg, daughter of the billionaire businessman, philanthropist, former New York City mayor and brief presidential hopeful, Michael Bloomberg. A 2001 Princeton graduate herself, Emma is also a Bloomberg Philanthropies board member and has founded and worked with nonprofits focused on education and alleviating poverty.
Diversity advocates and academics alike are celebrating news of Princeton’s Bloomberg center and feel it will not only help the school to shake off negative views that have dogged it in the past, but that will also provide a scalable model for other universities to possibly follow in the future.
“Princeton and other highly selective universities have long faced criticism for their relatively homogeneous populations, made up largely of white, wealthy students,” Korn said. “The schools have pursued a range of efforts to improve both their realities and reputations, including increasing outreach to low-income high schools and working with college-prep programs around the country. But advocates for increased college access say more meaningful progress is stymied by practices including binding early-decision admissions deadlines, which don’t allow students to compare financial aid offers.”
Even before news of the Bloomberg donation and upcoming center broke, Princeton was already seeing measurable success for its work towards boosting student diversity over the past few years, with a notable increase in enrollment numbers for students from a range of racial and socioeconomic backgrounds.
Administrators have estimated that up to 20% of students who began classes in the fall of 2019 came from families earning $50,000 or less annually — twice the number enrolled in 2010.
“Those who are first-generation college students nearly doubled, to 17.8%, in that time,” Korn reported. And next fall, she added, “First-generation college students represent 22% of the class admitted — a record high.”
Experts say as the new center takes shape over the coming years, those enrollment numbers of diverse students can only continue to grow.