Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

University of California System More Diverse Than Originally Thought

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

University of California System More Diverse Than Originally Thought

Article excerpt

Research shows more than half of undergrads are immigrants or children of immigrants


The University of California has long been recognized as a diverse institution, but a new report reveals another dimension of that diversity: More than half of UC's undergraduates are immigrants or the children of immigrants.

In the first attempt by a major research university to systematically survey undergraduates, researchers found that 55 percent of students had at least one immigrant parent or were themselves born in another country. "That's a pretty startling statistic," notes Dr. Richard Flacks, professor of sociology at UC Santa Barbara, and one of the study's authors. The 2003 survey targeted 16,000 students at UC's eight undergraduate campuses, and received 6,658 responses.

The percentages are highest among Asian Americans and Latinos. Some 41 percent of Asian American students say they were born in another country, and an additional 54 percent say that at least one of their parents is an immigrant. About 60 percent of Latino students are also immigrants or the children of immigrants. But the report noted that 36 percent of Black students and 22 percent of White students also are first-generation Americans.

Though it is no secret that immigrant students have a significant presence on UC campuses, the actual numbers were not previously estimated.

"There has been no systematic effort to gauge the immigrant background of students," notes Dr. John Douglass, a senior research fellow at the Center for Studies in Higher Education at UC Berkeley, another author of the report. "Frankly people were surprised. This is an old story in American higher education, that immigrant groups really have taken advantage of education as a route for socioeconomic mobility."

Flacks says this sort of data should influence policy decisions about the university. "The faculty and the public and policy-makers still view the student body of the University of California as if it was a suburban White upper-middle class population," Flacks says. "That has changed fundamentally. If I'm standing in front of a class talking about social movements and say, 'As your parents may have experienced back in the '60s,' I then realize that is not any longer a statement that makes sense. More than half of the students sitting there have parents who did not experience these things."

The first survey was conducted in 2002, and the current results reflect 2003, the second survey. This year, the survey's third year, researchers are attempting a census approach. …

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