ANN ARBOR (AP) — The University of Michigan announced a free college-preparatory and scholarship program Friday for students in certain school districts in the state, which university officials said could help boost the university’s minority enrollment.
The program called Wolverine Pathways begins in January for students who live within the boundaries of the Ypsilanti and Southfield public school districts, the university’s President Mark Schlissel announced. They were picked in part because they’re close to Ann Arbor and have diverse student populations.
“Wolverine Pathways is an important next step for the University of Michigan as we continue to look for ways to identify talented students and cultivate … applicants from all parts of our state,” Schlissel said in a statement.
Each student who successfully completes the Wolverine Pathways program and is admitted to the university will get a full-tuition scholarship for four years. The program will be offered in eight-week sessions and could be expanded to other districts later, possibly including Detroit.
Earlier this month, the school said its freshman enrollment was more diverse for fall 2015 when compared with classes over the previous decade. Underrepresented minority students make up 12.8 percent of the incoming freshman class, the largest percentage since 2005, when it was 13.8 percent.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that Michigan voters had the right to change their state constitution in 2006 to prohibit public colleges and universities from taking account of race, known as affirmative action, in admissions decisions. Amid that backdrop, the University of Michigan has taken steps in other ways to encourage underrepresented minority students to attend.
The Wolverine Pathways program supports the Ann Arbor school’s diversity goals, Schlissel said, and it follows recommendations by the school’s Provost’s Committee on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion to form partnerships to help “increase the pipeline” of college-ready minority and first-generation students.
Wolverine Pathways will be housed in one school building within each school district. The initial classes will include up to 60 seventh-graders and 60 high school sophomores in each district. The program will grow each year to encompass students in grades seven through 12.
Participants will be called “Wolverine Scholars” and will be selected through an application process. The program will operate after school and on Saturday mornings during the winter and fall semesters. There also will be a summer session that includes field trips, campus visits and internships.
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