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Minn. Regent Asks if Diversity is Hurting Enrollment | Inside Higher Ed

Is diversity to blame for ongoing enrollment declines at the University of Minnesota at Morris? That’s the question a University of Minnesota regent asked at a recent board meeting, where the college’s interim chancellor discussed an enrollment drop of more than 40 percent in the last decade.

“I have received a couple letters, two actually, from friends whose children are not going to go to Morris because it is too diverse of a campus. They just didn’t feel comfortable there. Is it at all possible, in the specifics of Morris, that we’ve become too diverse for a student to attend?” Board of Regents vice chair Steve Sviggum asked the chancellor at last week’s meeting.

Interim chancellor Janet Schrunk Ericksen said that minority students would likely “be shocked that anyone would think our campus was too diverse.” She added that “they certainly feel, at times, isolated where they are located. So, the answer is from that perspective, no.”

Located in the agricultural community of Morris, Minn.—which has a population of around 5,000—the University of Minnesota at Morris is about two and a half hours from the Twin Cities and was founded on the site of a former school for Native Americans. The student population is 56.3 percent white and 28 percent Native American, with no other demographic group breaking out of single digits, according to fall 2021 enrollment data available on the university’s website.

Local media outlets noted those numbers have largely held steady in recent years.

Sviggum, a state Republican lawmaker from 1979 to 2007, told local TV station KSTP that “somebody should be asking the question” and that it was “not a racist question.”

The TV station reported that some minority student groups on campus were “outraged” and that they have invited Sviggum to meet with them to discuss the importance of diversity on campus.

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