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The University of Georgia School of Law has enrolled a record number of black students in its incoming class of first-years. Of the 257 students in the class of 2006, 38 — or 14.8 percent — are black, a 3.7 percent increase over last year. Sixty-two students, or about 24 percent, in the class of 2006 are minorities. Minority enrollment numbers for the incoming class of undergraduate freshmen were not available, but the university has black enrollment of 6 percent. The first-year law class started school Aug. 12, almost two months after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a program at the University of Michigan Law School that considers race among other admissions factors used to produce a diverse student body. The Court also struck down Michigan’s undergraduate program, which used a point system to give minorities an edge over white applicants. The Michigan rulings were handed down too late for the incoming class at UGA, meaning that the increase in enrollment apparently can be credited to more effective recruiting. The school now will have to consider whether there’s a need to return to a program that gives formal consideration to race in admissions. C. Ronald Ellington, chairman of the law school’s admissions committee and a professor, said better outreach efforts over the past few years have helped increase the percentage of black students. “I think we, like other law schools, thought or operated on the assumption at one time that if we admitted you, you would come,” he said. Five or six years ago, both Georgia and out-of-state residents considered UGA Law a bargain compared to other schools, Ellington explained. But with steady tuition hikes over the past few years, the likelihood is less that an applicant will choose UGA over another school, he said. For a Georgia resident, tuition and fees total $7,130 for the 2003-04 academic year. For an out-of-state student, the cost is $23,898. But the school realized it needed to expand its recruiting efforts after prospective students are accepted. In 2000, UGA Law promoted admissions assistant Gregory L. Roseboro to associate director of admissions. Roseboro is black and earned both his B.A. and J.D. degrees at UGA. Roseboro has personal contact with students as part of the admissions process, said Ellington. He credits Roseboro with some of the increase in minority numbers. UGA also hosts an open house for admitted students each spring. Enrolled students from different racial backgrounds, law school societies and student bar associations attend the open house. Ellington said the open house raises the “comfort level” for potential students. The law school has tried to enhance its recruiting efforts at historically black colleges such as Spelman College and Morehouse College, Ellington added. BACK TO THE OLD? But the increased percentage of black students doesn’t mean UGA’s law school won’t return to admissions standards that consider race, Ellington said. “I think we will continue to try to enroll a diverse class, and I think, consistent with the Supreme Court decision, that means that we will take race as a factor into account,” he said. On June 23, a split U.S. Supreme Court narrowly upheld a program at the University of Michigan’s law school that considered race as an admissions factors. Grutter v. Bollinger, No. 02-241. But the Court struck down Michigan’s undergraduate admissions program, which gave minorities an automatic 20 points toward the 100 points needed for admission. Gratz v. Bollinger, No. 02-516. The decision in the Michigan undergraduate case echoed a 2001 ruling by a federal appeals court that found unconstitutional the university’s practice of giving nonwhite applicants extra points on their application scores. The Georgia case started in 1999, when Jennifer L. Johnson sued the university after her application was rejected. She alleged that the point bonuses assigned to nonwhite and male applicants biased the admissions process against her. The university soon ended the practice of awarding bonus points to men but left racial preferences in place for the freshman class of 2000. But U.S. District Judge B. Avant Edenfield struck down the program as unconstitutional. In 2001, a panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, determining that an admissions policy “that mechanically awards an arbitrary ‘diversity’ bonus to each and every nonwhite applicant” violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. Johnson v. Board of Regents of the University of Georgia, 263 F.3d 1234 (11th Cir. 2001). The ruling in the University of Michigan case means UGA can consider race as a factor in the admissions process again, but the decision should be used with caution, said Rocco E. Testani, an education lawyer and partner at Sutherland Asbill & Brennan. “I don’t think that the U of M decision is a green light,” Testani said. “I think you have to be very careful in the use of race, and I think that’s what the U of M case stands for.” Testani added that he isn’t aware of what UGA’s law school has been doing to attract more black students. But, he said, “I would think that an institution that was getting improvement without having to use it would be well-advised to probably not revert to the use of race.” HOW UGA MEASURES UP Last year, black students represented 11.1 percent of the incoming UGA Law class. In 1993, 10.4 percent of the 1L class was black. By comparison, at Macon’s Mercer University School of Law, the number of black students in the incoming class is about half of what it was a decade ago. Just 5.7 percent of the class of 2006 is black; in 1993, the number was 11.8 percent. At Emory University School of Law, 225 students started orientation Thursday. Of those, 11.6 percent is black. Ten years ago, 4.2 percent of the class was black. Admissions officials at Georgia State University College of Law did not return calls for this story. Ellington noted that this year’s pool of potential students at UGA’s law school — 2,701 applicants — also was the largest on record. The law school said the entering class has a median LSAT score of 162 and a median 3.6 GPA, down slightly from last year’s 163 median LSAT and 3.65 GPA. The law class of 2006 also has the highest number of female students in the school’s history. Of the 257 students, 49.8 percent, or 128, are women.

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