Auburn University Scrutinized for Diversity Efforts, High Tuition

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A recent survey reveals that Auburn University (AU) in Alabama spends nearly $1 million annually to employ 17 staff members in its Office of Inclusion and Diversity. Yet, the university has a poor record of enrolling low-income students — a group that traditionally includes minorities — and has raised tuition every year since 2005, causing some to question the effectiveness of the diversity office’s efforts.

The public university’s website shows a diversity staff comprised of a manager of diversity and inclusion, a diversity and inclusion special projects administrator, a coordinator for culturally diverse alumni, a multicultural center director, three diversity initiatives coordinators, a diversity student advocate, an assistant provost for women’s initiatives, two executive support assistants, an administrative support assistant, and a business manager.

A review of these 13 employees’ salaries — which are public record — shows that they collectively earned about $800,000 from June 2015 to May 2016. However, those salaries do not represent the total sum of employee salaries dedicated to diversity efforts at the university.

The Office of Inclusion and Diversity has 17 full- and part-time staff members — whose jobs are funded by taxpayer dollars — to administer “diversity initiatives and on-campus programs, including the Multicultural Center, the Educational Resource Center, women’s initiatives, community initiatives, and institutional diversity initiatives,” according to AU.

Furthermore, the university’s diversity Web page states: “Students who interact with and learn about people from a variety of backgrounds are more apt to understand, appreciate, and excel in the community they inhabit.”

Despite AU’s recognition of “economic status” as a key component of diversity, some criticize the university for tuition hikes amidst a lack of improvement in the areas of diversity and inclusion.

The school continues to raise tuition, and this fall, students will pay more than ever — specifically a 3 percent increase over last year — with annual residential tuition at $10,736 and nonresidential tuition at $28,881. In addition, nonprofit advocacy group The Education Trust ranked AU in the bottom 5 percent of colleges and universities nationally in providing access to lower-income students.

AU does provide scholarships that are intended to foster diversity as defined by the university’s Strategic Plan, which are awarded by the Office of Inclusion and Diversity, the Office of University Scholarships, and each of AU’s 12 colleges and schools, according to its website.