Charles Library on Temple University's main campus in North Philadelphia Credit: Mark Henninger / Imagic Digital

💌 Love Philly? Sign up for the free Billy Penn newsletter to get everything you need to know about Philadelphia, every day.

Temple University has recently been touting increased racial diversity, but data from the university shows the overall proportion of undergraduates who are Black, AAPI, Indigenous or Hispanic is almost the same as it was two decades ago. The demographic shifts have been uneven, resulting in a lower proportion of Black people among the student body.

While Hispanic and AAPI undergraduate enrollment at Temple grew steadily from 2002 to 2020, increasing by about five percentage points, the Black student population declined by nearly nine percentage points over the same time.

Black students represented almost 23% of Temple undergraduates in 2002, the first year public data is available on the school’s website. That proportion reached a two-decade low of 12.6% in 2016, before rising to 13.8% in 2020.

(In 2010, the school started separating data for students who identify as Asian and those who identify as Pacific Islander. For uniformity, Billy Penn’s analyses combine these demographics.)

While enrollment for first-year AAPI and Hispanic students rose by around five percentage points, Black first-year student enrollment dropped by the same amount.

Specifically, Temple in October cited progress among first-year student enrollment. A quote from the university news publication Temple Now said the class of 2025 was “its most ethnically and geographically diverse class of students in at least a quarter of a century.”

Data for 2021 enrollment hasn’t been published on Temple’s Office of Institutional Research and Assessment yet, but Temple Now reported 831 Black students enrolled. Shawn Abbott, a vice provost at Temple, said in an email that the school’s more than 2,200 new students of color represents nearly 45% of the incoming class. Black students comprise about 16% of that class, an about 14% increase over last year.

An August 2020 announcement from Temple Now said the school welcomed its largest Black and Latinx first-year community since its founding. Its own data contradicts that claim.

There were 677 Black first-year degree-seeking students in 2020, according to figures published by the school’s Office of Institutional Research and Assessment. The same database shows 690 degree-seeking Black students entering the university in 2005. (Temple only publishes data about the number of degree-seeking first year students, and not first-year students who aren’t seeking degrees.)

However, the way data was measured changed over that time, according to Temple spokesperson Stephen Orbanek. National race reporting standards began including a category for students who identify as “two or more races” in fall 2010, and Temple also allows students to check multiple boxes, he said.

Orbanek called the decrease in Black enrollment “at odds with Temple’s reputation as a popular destination for Black students,” but said that Abbott, who has served as a vice provost at Temple since late 2018 has worked to change the trend. Abbott said this is the second year in a row that Temple has increased its Black student enrollment.

After a decline in the 2000s, the school has steadily improved its overall racial diversity since 2012.

Progress has been most apparent among first-year students. In 2002, about 60% of the students entering Temple were white. That percentage peaked in 2011 at almost 66% — meaning only one-third of the incoming class was people of color. In 2020, incoming students were only 54% white, an 18-year low.

Philadelphia is about 44% Black, about 34% white, 15% Hispanic or Latino, 8% AAPI and almost 1% indigenous. People who identify as two or more races account for almost 3% of the city’s population, according to the Census.

Temple Now’s 2021 report said 745 first-year students, or about 15% of the class of 2025, are from Philly.

Layla A. Jones (she/her) was a general assignment reporter for Billy Penn from 2019 to 2021. Her work has helped underserved community organizations, earned free repairs for property owners who sustained...