updated 5/27/2004 8:38:30 PM ET 2004-05-28T00:38:30

Minority applications are down 21 percent for the first freshman class to enter the University of Michigan since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down its system for giving admission preference based on race.

The school downplayed the drop. “The pool of minority applicants is relatively small, so small changes in numbers can create large changes in percentages,” university spokeswoman Julie Peterson said Thursday.

Overall applications are down 18 percent. The university emphasized that admissions figures were compiled as of May 16, and will not be final until official enrollment is reported in October.

Despite the drops, officials said that the school is poised to admit its largest-ever incoming class this fall because more of the students who were admitted have accepted the school’s offer to enroll. The university admitted more than 13,000 students in hopes that would yield an enrollment of 5,545 for this fall.

Supreme Court decision
The Supreme Court in June upheld a general affirmative action policy at the University of Michigan law school but struck down the university’s undergraduate formula as too rigid because it awarded admission points based on race.

In response, the university adopted a new application that still considers race, but does not award points, and includes new short-answer questions and an optional essay.

University of Michigan admissions director Ted Spencer said continued misunderstanding of the court’s decision could have contributed to the decline in minority applications, which has been mirrored by other universities that revised similar point-based admissions policies in the wake of the ruling.

“A student could think ‘I don’t know if this is something I want to get myself into,”’ he said.

“This is of course generalizing — 37 students does not a trend make,” he added, referring to a drop in paid minority enrollments.

The university has received paid enrollment deposits from 747 minorities, a decrease of just 37 students from the same time last year.

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