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Two Pennsylvania schools, the University of Pennsylvania Law School and Villanova University Law School, stood at different ends of the spectrum for minority enrollment — Penn on one end with nearly 10 percent more minority students than the national average, and Villanova at the other, with nearly 10 percent below. Janice Austin, assistant dean of admissions at Penn, said that while she actively recruits minority students, the school seems to have an easier time enrolling minorities than some of its counterparts. “We tend to have a larger applicant pool,” Austin said. “So each subgroup within the applicant pool tends to be larger.” Austin estimated that the school received more than 5,000 applications, about 1,000 more than usual, for the 2002-2003 school year, and will accept about one out of every eight applicants. The 2002 first-year class is expected to have the same percentage of minority students as last year. Austin said that Penn, as well as other schools in the area, have expanded recruiting efforts beyond college to high schools and middle schools. “We all host events for high school students. It is not about fighting for the talented minority students, it’s about going to the high schools and middle schools and starting there,” she said. “I know all my colleagues at other schools actively recruit students of color and encourage minority applicants.” But she hypothesized that this might not be enough to change general perceptions on what schools provide the best environment for minority students. “[Minority students] are going to go to the law school that they perceive will be the best to position them for a meaningful and successful career … and we are perceived as a school that has a lot of minority students,” Austin said. “If you are lacking in a perceived critical mass, that will be perceived as a negative or less desirable place, and how you overcome that is very difficult.” Overcoming that perception is something that Mark Sargent, the dean at Villanova’s law school, says the school is focused on, and that the low percentage of minority students is not for lack of trying. “We put a lot of effort into minority recruiting. … Minority applicants come, don’t see a lot of minorities and think it is not a place for minorities. We think it is a self-fulfilling prophecy,” Sargent said. Sargent said that he thinks Villanova’s percentage of minority students is typical of private law schools in suburban areas. “We face a lot of competition with state schools for minorities and from urban schools for minorities,” he said. The school experienced a surge of applicants for the 2002-2003 school year, an estimated increase of nearly 30 percent. Sargent anticipated that 50 percent of all applicants would be accepted. The school has expanded its minority recruitment efforts over the years, Sargent said, increasing scholarship resources for minority students, forming a minority alumni society to help recent grads find jobs, hiring an African-American staff member who seeks out minority applicants and establishing a system of faculty members and members of the senior administration to support minority students. “Our pitch is that our retention rate, bar passage rate and employment rates for our minority students is exceptionally high, so they should look at Villanova as a place that offers exceptional opportunity for professional success,” Sargent said.

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