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Prime Effect? CU Admissions See Big Boost, Especially Among Diverse Applicants

  • In the wake of Deion Sanders’s arrival, the school says it has had a 20% overall increase in applicants, and over 50% more Black applicants.
  • Coach Prime has been influential in bringing more diversity to the overwhelmingly white campus.
CU-Boulder coach Deion Sanders runs spring practice.
Boulder Athletics

The University of Colorado has received roughly 20% more applicants compared to last year’s admissions cycle, according to reporting from the Boulder-based Daily Camera.

The school’s assistant vice chancellor of admissions, Jennifer Ziegenfus, told the Daily Camera that this year’s applicants are the most diverse group Boulder has ever seen, with applications up roughly 50.5% among Black and African American students, 25.6% among Hispanic and Latino students, and 15% among American Indian and Alaskan Native students. Overall, non-white applicants are up almost 30% over last year, Ziegenfus said.

Ziegenfus, though, isn’t entirely ready to attribute the jump to the hiring of and elevated national attention around football coach Deion Sanders, whose team started the season 3–0 and accounted for four of the 25 most-watched games in 2023. Applications have steadily risen in recent decades, Ziegenfus pointed out, but she did say Sanders’s hiring has proved a “great contribution.”

“CU Boulder has seen a steady increase in applications since 2012 and the increase in applications for the 2024 fall semester is consistent with that trend,” Ziegenfus tells Front Office Sports. “The reason why it’s difficult to make this direct [connection to Sanders] is because students have many reasons why they apply to a specific university and we don’t specifically ask applicants the reason why they are applying to CU Boulder.”

In the fall of 2023, only 2.7% of the CU student population identified as Black, while 65.2% identified as white, per school records. Sanders’s success during that same season has been noted for its appeal to the Black community, including drawing influential celebrities—from Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard to rapper Lil Wayne—to the overwhelmingly white town of Boulder to see the magic of the Buffaloes.

“Sanders [represents] one of those rare moments of contemporary racial progress,” CNN senior writer John Blake opined in September. “He has entered one of the Whitest and most conservative institutions in America—college football—and excelled.”

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