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Haas Publishes Diversity Plan After Drop in African-American MBA Students

University of California, Berkeley’s Haas School of Business has published a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Action Plan, acknowledging a “disappointing decline in the number of African American students enrolled in the Full-time Berkeley MBA Program.” 

This year, Haas enrolled just six black students in its 291-person MBA cohort. That’s down from 10 students out of 282 last year, and 19 students out of 252 the year before. 

It its action plan, Haas outlines steps it will take to halt the decline and attract more diverse talent. These include changing admissions policies, scholarship practices and school culture.

On the admissions front, Haas plans to revise its admissions criteria to explicitly consider “experience demonstrating commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.”

Right now, the school says, it evaluates applicants on three major criteria: academic aptitude, professional accomplishments and personal characteristics.

The action plan calls for expanding the scope of professional accomplishments and personal characteristics to give more weight to “the applicant’s experience and passion for creating diverse and inclusive communities.” 

The school also plans to create an “MBA Diversity Admissions Council” and bring up to two students onto the MBA admissions committee. 

Besides revising its admissions criteria, Haas is taking a look at the way it dispenses scholarship money. The action plan suggests that “Haas currently has much less funding available for scholarships” than peer institutions.

To close this gap, the school plans to step up scholarship fundraising efforts and raise its tuition by up to 6 percent, bringing the cost of attendance more in line with comparable MBA programs. 

The school says it will also streamline its scholarship process, by eliminating unnecessary scholarship applications and adopting a “first offer-best offer” financial aid system for example. 

Finally, the action plan identifies changes that can be made not just in the admissions process but at the school itself. These include hiring a Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer and strengthening support services for students from underrepresented minority groups. 

Clearly, this is a comprehensive plan. How long it will take to implement and what effect it will have on Haas’s ability to attract MBA students from diverse backgrounds remains to be seen.

But applicants will notice some changes right away. For example, the action plan says that applicants for Fall 2019 can now expect to field an interview question that gets at their “experience, passion and commitment to diversity and inclusion.” 

More generally, many of the steps in Haas’s action plan speak to changes in how the adcom evaluates applicants. So does this change your strategy as a hopeful Haas MBA students? 

It might. Haas certainly seems to be increasingly interested in identifying strong candidates whose personal and professional experience speak to an ability to be part of a diverse community.

If you have questions about how your application holds up under this new light, don’t hesitate to contact us. To get started, sign up for a free MBA application assessment!