Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Study Shows More Than Half of American Colleges Now Have Diversity Requirements

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Study Shows More Than Half of American Colleges Now Have Diversity Requirements

Article excerpt

Results of a new study suggest that a majority of colleges and universities require undergraduates to study diversity issues or material that speaks to diversity.

The national survey, released last month by the Association of American Colleges & Universities, showed that slightly more than half -- 54 percent -- of responding colleges and universities have existing diversity requirements, while another 8 percent are developing requirements. The overall total rises if two-year colleges, which have significantly lower requirement rates, are pulled out of the equation.

"The total of 62 percent with existing or pending diversity requirements confirms that colleges and universities now believe diversity important enough for all students to study, important in the same way as other educational requirements -- basic writing skills, quantitative skills and-knowledge about important societal issues," says Debra Humphreys, director of programs in the association's Office of Diversity, Equity and Global Initiatives. "This is a down payment on what is really needed to prepare students for a rapidly changing world."

Among the schools with requirements, a majority -- 58 percent -- require only one course, while the other 42 percent require two courses or more. Examples range from the State University of New York at Buffalo, where all sophomores are required to take a course on American pluralism, to schools that have long lists of courses that meet the diversity requirement.

"[These could include] everything from U.S. race relations to African American history to modern Chinese art," Humphreys says. "Some have defined diversity, in my view, too broadly and others more narrowly." The most common model is one in which students are required to take one course among several approved diversity courses.

How universal are the requirements within institutions? The vast majority of schools apply them to every student, although some schools will allow certain departments, such as business or engineering schools, to opt out, Humphreys says.

Two-year colleges yielded the lowest rate. About a third, or 32 percent, have requirements, compared to 58 percent of bachelor's degree-granting institutions, 63 percent of master's programs and 59 percent of doctoral and research universities.

Regional breakdowns showed diversity requirements to be most prevalent in western and midwestern states, and in the north central and New England regions. …

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