In 2018, Temple University embarked on an enrollment goal to recruit a freshman class with no ethnic majority.
“We were already proud of the diversity that already existed within our student body, but there was still a hunger for Temple to be more of a university that reflects the diversity of the city of Philadelphia,” said Shawn Abbott, Temple University’s vice provost for admissions, financial aid and enrollment management.
The university recently announced that approximately 45% of its Class of 2025 are students of color, an increase from 31% just five years ago.
The highest increase was in the number of Black and Hispanic freshman students.
There are 831 first-year Black students enrolled at Temple this fall, an increase of 23% over last school year.
Hispanic students also boosted the university’s enrollment with 458 students in the Class of 2025, 4% higher than in 2020 when enrollment dropped overall because of the pandemic.
“It’s very profound to see a first-year class look very differently from five years ago,” Abbott said. “We’re excited about this news, but we also recognize that more work still needs to be done.”
To reach their enrollment goals, Temple revamped its talent acquisition efforts.
“It’s my personal belief that you can’t expect to recruit a more ethnically, geographically, socioeconomically or academically diverse student community if the folks doing the recruiting come from remarkably similar backgrounds,” Abbott said.
“You need to intentionally recruit a more diverse frontline staff from the people that give your campus tours to the staff that visit high schools, to the admission counselors that read applications and make decisions,” he said.
“We’ve spent the better part of the last few years on talent acquisition efforts to recruit a more diverse frontline staff,” he added.
Prior to the pandemic, high school students across the country would typically take the SAT and ACT to qualify for admissions to colleges.
While Temple was already a test-optional university, Temple officials had to reimagine the evaluation and selection process due to the pandemic and cancellations of the SAT and ACT tests last year.
“Instead of using SAT and ACT scores, we started to think about what we wanted to value and what we wanted to reward as we make admission and scholarship decisions,” Abbott said.
“We started putting more of an emphasis on academic rigor, academic performance and extracurricular impact,” he said. “We started to pay more attention to the hours of work that students perform outside the classroom and part-time job responsibilities and family responsibilities.
“We rewarded things like whether or not a student was going to be the first generation of their family to go to college,” he added. “We also looked at things like what neighborhood you may come from, and whether or not you were going to be overcoming any type of adversity to come to any particular college/university.”
Thirty percent of Temple’s freshmen will be first-generation college graduates while 28% will receive a Pell Grant, a federal financial aid grant that is limited to undergraduate students with financial need.
“In reimagining our admission process and revising our evaluation process in our selection process, students of color and students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds just shined in our admission process,” Abbott said.
“They qualified for more of our merit scholarships than they previously did when we were hyper-fixated, admittedly, on SAT scores or ACT scores,” he added.
Temple has increased out-of-state enrollment by 15% over the last year. The out-of-state student body is well-represented from Florida, Texas and California.
The university also saw gains locally. A total of 745 students enrolled from the city of Philadelphia, a 3% increase from last year.
“We have a commitment that we will visit every high school in Philadelphia on an annual basis or at the very least we will make a connection with every high school in the city,” Abbott said.
“As far as our out-of-state enrollment, we’ve now stationed admission officers in various parts of the United States to identify students from major metropolitan areas,” he said.
“We have folks now recruiting for Temple in Dallas and South Florida,” he added. “We will also have somebody recruiting for us in California shortly.”
Abbott said that despite the progress in Temple’s recruitment plan, the university still has more work to do.
“We now need to move aggressively into reigniting our commitment to affordability,” Abbott said. “We have a couple of new programs like the Broad Street Finish Line Grant and the Cecil B. Moore Scholars Program for kids in North Philadelphia, but we’re going to need more of that.
“I think for Temple to become any more diverse than we already are, it’s going to have to involve a more significant commitment to affordability.”