Class Of 2004 Focuses On Diversity, Gender Equality
By by CHRISTINE FRANKS, Contributing Writer
This year's freshman class is a class of firsts. The class has a higher number and percent of African-American and Asian-American students, non-US citizens, and students of mixed heritage than any class before it, according to Dean of Admission Tom Parker.

Additionally, the class is composed of 220 women and 215 men, which, while not a hugely significant percentage difference according to Parker, marks the first time an Amherst class has been composed of more women than men.

"There's no doubt I'm thrilled with this class. I would love to guarantee that every class could be as diverse. It's a class of firsts and mosts. Its amazing," Parker said.

Parker also noted that 15 percent of the freshman class was from California, a sign of Amherst's growing national reputation, and that the class as a whole was drawn from 338 different high schools.

According to Parker, gender distribution is ideally supposed to be even, and it is just by chance that the class is slightly more female.

But he said that the increase in number and percentage of students of color was not by chance, and that the admissions office worked aggressively to recruit students of color this year, providing more opportunities for them to visit the campus.

He also said the Office of Admission accepted a higher percentage of students of color and also had a higher yield, meaning that more chose to attend Amherst once accepted.

"Coming from southern California, it's comforting to come to a college that has as diverse a group of people as where I'm from," Natalie Dominguez '04 said. "I was initially expecting a far less diverse group of people, and I was happy to learn that my expectations were wrong."

The class also has more students receiving grants, scholarships or loans, with a total of 49 percent of students receiving some sort of financial aid, compared to approximately 42 percent last year. The average financial aid package also rose from $20,101 to $22,698 this year.

Parker attributed the increase in the number of students receiving financial aid to the College's enhanced quality of financial aid packages, and its attempt to eliminate or reduce loans, thus making it easier for low- and middle-income students to attend Amherst.

"My financial aid package was a determining factor in my decision to come to Amherst," Lynda Flores '04 said. "They gave me a lot of money and I'm really happy about it."

In the future, Parker says he plans to continue his efforts to create diverse classes, through programs such as the Student of Color Open House.

"I hope to do every bit as well with the class of 2005," said Parker.

Issue 02, Submitted 2000-09-13 15:42:26