A recent article, “Wayne State Grapples with Decline in Black Detroiters,” Sept. 5, was incomplete and incorrectly identified underlying factors behind the decrease in black student enrollment at Wayne State University. We were disappointed by the story’s presentation of data in a sensationalistic way. First, to suggest that it is an anomaly for an African-American student from Detroit Public Schools (DPS) Community District to come to Wayne State is ludicrous. In 2016, DPS graduated 695 African-Americans. Of these, 12 percent chose to enroll at Wayne State. Among all the four-year colleges and universities in the state, only Michigan State, a university with a freshmen class more than three times the size of Wayne State’s, enrolled more. The article misleadingly stated we had only 87 new African-American students from DPS out of 27,298 students enrolled in 2016. What it failed to mention was that among our total student body in fall 2016, we had 1,586 DPS graduates.
Second, DPS had a precipitous drop in enrollment during the 10-year period referenced in the article, a fact barely mentioned. DPS had 5,774 students graduate from high school in 2006; in 2016, that number had dropped to only 2,238, a steep decline that certainly affected our enrollment of DPS graduates. During this same period, enrollment in charter and private schools grew, as did our enrollment of students from non-DPS schools. The article doesn’t mention this.
Diversity and inclusion are at the core of Wayne State’s ethos. That is why — despite the challenges of an unprecedented drop in DPS high school graduates — we welcomed 434 freshmen black students this year compared to 369 last year, a 17.6 percent increase.
Finally, the article correctly acknowledges that the graduation rate for African-Americans has tripled over the past five years, an accomplishment that has been nationally recognized. Equally important to note is that although Wayne State enrolled fewer African-Americans in 2016 compared to 2006, the actual number of African-Americans graduating increased from 426 in 2006 to 585 in 2016. Wayne State University will continue to do everything it can to recruit students from Detroit and provide the tools our young people need to succeed in college and beyond.
M. Roy Wilson,
president, Wayne State University
Sandra Hughes O’Brien
chair, Wayne State University
Board of Governors