“U.S. News and World Report” gave FMU its first title as a “Best Ethnically Diverse University” for the 2017-2018 academic year. While FMU has maintained a large level of diversity historically, the university was newly ranked in the top 15 schools in the South for high levels of diversity.
Each year, “U.S. News” reporters and data analysts gather data about universities’ tuition costs, retention rates, student body size, levels of ethnic and economic diversity and other areas. For this particular category, universities’ diversity was measured on a scale from 0 to 1. Based on the university’s diversity displayed in students, faculty and staff, “U.S. News” assigns a score to the university, with a score of “1” being the highest level of diversity.
President of FMU Dr. Fred Carter said that while he wasn’t necessarily surprised with FMU’s high ranking, he felt humbled and honored by the recognition. According to Carter, FMU’s location plays a large role in its high diversity ranking since its student body reflects the demographics of the Pee Dee region.
“We’re located right in the middle of the Pee Dee, and this is a region that is extremely rural,” Carter said. “It’s also a region that is very diverse in terms of demographic makeup. This university represents pretty much the same demographic profile as the world right outside the gates of the university.”
The main indicator of diversity in this ranking system deals with ethnic diversity in the student body, but there are other factors taken into account when calculating a university’s score. “U.S. News” reporters look at the ethnic demographics in faculty and staff along with social and economic backgrounds of both faculty and students.
According to Carter, high levels of diversity lead to a better education overall for students. He said that, in order for students to achieve the best education possible and to be fully prepared for life after college, it’s necessary that students be presented with demographics that reflect the nation as accurately as possible.
“A university ought to parallel in many ways the world that we’re going to live in when we step out of this university at the end of four years,” Carter said. “As a result of diversity, students’ educations are broader and, in a lot of ways, are more robust. Their educations are certainly more varied, less stereotypical and much more cultured.”
Another aspect that “U.S. News” considers in many of its rankings is the percentage of first-generation students and students from varying educational backgrounds. According to Carter, the levels of first-generation students present in a university often correlates with its levels of diversity. He also said FMU has a large presence of these students on campus and that FMU faculty and staff play a large role in the lives of first-generation students and help support them both in and out of the classroom.
“I think we have a very supportive faculty on this campus for first-generation students,” Carter said. “The faculty is especially adept at educating first-generation college students and college students who come from rural backgrounds. I also think many of our faculty reflect this same type of background.”