Binghamton University is not on track to meet all of its 2026 diversity goals — with some statistics declining.
Data from BU’s Road Map plan shows that underrepresented minority (URM) students currently make up 19.2 percent of undergraduate students. This is up 2.5 percent from 2011, but below 25 percent, BU’s goal for 2026. On the other hand, graduate student diversity steadily rose from 2014-20, but has been declining over the past two years. The current number is 11.2 percent, down from 12.4 percent in 2020, and shy of the University’s goal of 15 percent.
The category in which the University appears to be the most inconsistent is in URM faculty, which is at a 9-year low of 7.7 percent, far below its 2026 goal of 15 percent.
The data is found on BU’s Road Map website, which details BU President Harvey Stenger’s strategic projects for growth. Fostering an inclusive campus was among these goals. In some categories, the University has met its target numbers — including in BU’s Campus Pride Index score, as well as in the number of courses with the attributes “Pluralism in the United States (P)” or “Diversity: Equity, Inclusion and Social Justice (D)” and in the number of students that have completed such courses.
Donald Loewen, the vice provost for undergraduate education and enrollment management and an associate professor of Russian, said the University aims to offer a welcoming education and environment.
“We partner with units across campus to show underrepresented students how they can participate and contribute to an exceptional learning environment, with an opportunity to help shape our campus culture during their time here,” Loewen wrote in an email. “We help students visit us on campus, host virtual programs and visit high schools and community colleges to invite students to apply.”
URMs in higher education include groups that are underrepresented in the student body and faculty, specifically individuals of Black, Latino, Native American and Pacific Islander descent. While undergraduate degrees are becoming more widespread within all racial groups, there is still a disparity across the country.
According to educational attainment data from the Census Bureau, the percentage of non-Hispanic White adults aged 25 or older with a bachelor’s degree or higher grew from 34 percent to 41.9 percent from 2011 to 2021. Over the same period of time, the percentage of Black adults aged 25 or older with the same qualifications grew from 19.9 percent to 28.1 percent, the number of Asian adults from 50.3 percent to 61.0 percent, and the number of Hispanic adults from 14.1 percent to 20.6 percent.
Karen Jones, the vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion at BU, provided context to the decline in graduate student diversity — pointing to a trend that may have began during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“While it is a little early to determine what contributed to the slight decline, we have learned that many students could continue graduate school virtually, allowing many to remain home and save on housing and traveling expenses,” Jones wrote in an email.
According to a Pew Research study, among adults without a bachelor’s degree, Hispanic adults were more likely than their Black or white counterparts to list finances as a “major reason” as to why they didn’t graduate from a four-year college. Both Hispanic and Black adults were more likely than White adults to list working to support their family as the biggest cause for college being unaffordable.
The gap in educational attainment varies widely by geographical region. As discovered in a 2019 study by Stanford, a strong correlation can be found between educational attainment and local racial differences in parental income, patterns of residential and school segregation and local parental education levels.
The category of URM faculty at BU has also declined over the last two years, and has still not returned to its 9 percent peak in 2016.
Jones elaborated on this stagnation and decline in faculty diversity, citing competitive offers and location as the main reasons for faculty taking jobs elsewhere.
“Less than ideal diverse [faculty] representation is not unique to [BU], but rather a national phenomenon,” Jones wrote. “Many of those who left, did so for greater opportunities in larger metropolitan areas — while we extend counter offers, we cannot change the geographic area.”
In a 2017 study on the effects of diversity in faculty, data showed that students taught by a teacher with a similar background to them gained positive benefits, including in their effort, “college aspirations” and “happiness in class.”
James Gallo, a freshman majoring in biochemistry, said he feels faculty diversity can affect a learning environment.
“It provides a means for students of different ethnicities and backgrounds to feel more comfortable,” Gallo said. “This facilitates a healthier learning environment.”
Anthony Zhang, a freshman majoring in computer science, expressed the significance of diversity within faculty in higher education.
“Honestly, I feel it is quite important to have faculty that represent the racial makeup of the University,” Zhang said. “Especially because minority students need role models to look up to. Having faculty that look like us is so important to reach our potential in education. Seeing someone represent and be there for us and help nurture us, helps us grow.”