Selection of Universities by Students in Journalism and Mass Communication Courses: Do Criteria Differ between Caucasian and Minority Students?

Article excerpt

Abstract

This study measures the significance of factors used by minority students in their selection of universities/colleges. This web survey was conducted mainly on 778 students enrolled in journalism/mass communication courses representing five historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and twelve other universities. Differences were found among and between criteria favored by students of various ethnicities, minority, and majority students at public and private universities, and students at HBCUs and their counterparts at white majority institutions.Two factors, a university's academic reputation and the availability of financial assistance, emerged as most important among all respondents. Beyond that, however, the survey found differences between majority and minority students, for example, in their rankings of the presence of minority faculty and intercollegiate athletic programs, among others.

Keywords

recruitment, minority students, journalism and mass communication education

In recent years, journalism/mass communication (JMC) programs have, to varying degrees, implemented initiatives aimed at attracting more diverse student bodies. These efforts stem from the recognition of a number of laudable ideals, including an adherence to tenets of democratic theory that stipulate that all people have a voice in the marketplace of ideas. In practice, diversity of media content is fostered when diversity exists among those who provide that content.1 Diversifying educational programs that train the media producers of tomorrow, therefore, serves as a necessary first step in integrating multicultural perspectives into the public discourse and the production of cultural media artifacts.

Yet media scholars have devoted little attention to systematic examination of the factors that influence minority students as they select a university. Educators think they understand, and perhaps they do. But this study aims to fill that data gap in a systematic manner. In doing so, this research seeks to provide guidance for programs working to implement effective diversity initiatives.

The research builds on Biswas, Izard, and Perkins's 2008 pilot study,2 the results of which were presented at the Conference on Successful Programs in Higher Education Diversity at the Manship School of Mass Communication, Louisiana State University. At this conference, panelists detailed particular programs that have been successful in facilitating diversity in their respective JMC schools. These efforts notwithstanding, the conference conversations again highlighted the need to incorporate students' perspectives in crafting diversity initiatives that are effective in reaching target populations. This study seeks to provide empirical data to ensure that well-meaning diversity programs indeed conform to the real-world concerns of students as they make the critical decisions of selecting their universities.

To that end, this study explores a number of factors related to students' selections of an institution of higher education and seeks to gauge the significance that each plays in the decision-making process. Preliminary investigation revealed that minority students gave the greatest weight to some of the same factors as other students, namely, the availability of funding/scholarships and the university's academic reputation.3 This analysis aims to build on those findings while employing a larger sample and a more rigorous statistical model. The study also problematizes simplistic constructions of diversity initiatives by noting differences among and between students of various ethnicities, minority and majority students at public and private universities, and students at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and their counterparts at predominantly white institutions.

In doing so, these findings contribute to the scant literature that informs the construction of models for diversifying JMC programs. …