HLS and the Efforts to Increase Black Student Numbers on Campus
Fall 2018 | By Jordan Kennedy
Over the last admissions cycle, law schools across the country have seen a glut in applicants and an even more significant increase in the total number of applications. According to an article by the Harvard Crimson earlier this year, verified by the Law School, Harvard Law School received 7,578 applications this past year alone, a 32 percent increase over the prior year. Black applicants in particular have skyrocketed as well, six percent higher relative to the previous year. It may not seem like much, however black enrollment in law schools across the country has been declining year after year since the late 2000’s. This year seemed to reverse the trend.
During the recession of 2008, law school applications were at an all-time high. In fact, the following year saw the highest total number of LSATs administered. According to a report by Harvard Law School’s Professor David B. Wilkins, there were 67 black 1L students enrolled at Harvard Law School in 2009. Over the next seven years, this number dwindled to half of its size: In 2016, there were only 31 black 1L students enrolled according to the ABA (American Bar Association).
Nevertheless, there is reason to be hopeful. Even before the application boom of the 2018 admissions cycle, a reversal was underway. Harvard’s ABA required disclosure, information each law school must provide to the ABA in order to maintain accreditation, states there were 40 1L blacks enrolled at Harvard Law School that year. The Law School was able to improve diversity, even as the number of black applicants across the country decrease.
Although more detailed data on the class of 2021 has yet to be released, there is reason to believe this upward trend will continue. Given the inundation of applications to Harvard Law School this past year, it is hard to imagine that the number of diverse applicants, as well as the number of those enrolled, would not increase too. Additionally, there appears to be a steady rise of black applicants across the country: The number of black applicants is already 5.2% higher than it was at this time last year. However, we will have to wait and see.
With that being said, there is still work to be done. Forty black 1L students in 2017 out of a class 560 is not enough. Harvard has been a leading institution in many respects in the past and should aspire to do so when it comes to diversity and inclusivity. Increasing the number of black students at Harvard Law School is not only crucial for fostering a variety of perspectives in the classroom, it is also important for society given the high caliber positions that Harvard Law graduates often obtain.