A Welcome Increase: Outreach and Diversity Efforts Appear to Be Paying off as Some Colleges and Universities Experience Record Minority Student Enrollments This Fall
Lum, Lydia, Black Issues in Higher Education
At a time when tuition is skyrocketing and many states are slashing higher education appropriations, Blacks and other students of color are enrolling at some of the nation's colleges and universities in record numbers. In some cases, the numbers of minorities are setting records at not only state flagships, hut also at regional universities. Obviously, school officials are pleased that outreach and diversity efforts are paying ore And in places where affirmative action has been banned in recent years, school officials are relieved that minorities are still giving them a chance. The University of Georgia (UGA), for instance, saw its enrollment of Black freshmen jump by 25 percent this year. The 273 Blacks, among 800 first-year minorities, mark an all-time high for the school. Yet for three years, the university has not used race as a factor in admissions or scholarships in response to anti-affirmative action litigation.
"We're just doing a bettor job getting out the message that we want the best and brightest here," says J. Robert Spatig, senior associate director of admissions.
So how did they do it?
By stepping up recruiting. A year ago, UGA deans, vice presidents and senior faculty personally called high-school seniors and their families who had expressed interest in the university, encouraging them to enroll. Prospective students were gleaned from surveys, as well as from UGA recruiters who had visited their campuses. "It was the first time this kind of personal approach was tried here, and we're about to do it again for fall 2004," says Dr. Keith Parker, associate provost for institutional diversity. "Imagine the impact of getting a phone call from a faculty member who's also a member of the National Academy of Sciences."
That effort went hand-in-hand with other campus initiatives. The university dispatched recruiters to the cities of Decatur and Tifton to increase its presence in Black communities and provide outreach full time. On campus, the UGA president established Parker's office three years ago. Blacks and other minorities have assumed high-profile roles in student government. And student organizations have sponsored large-scale events and programs to encourage leadership among Black men. "There's no better recruiting tool than the enthusiasm of minority students who are engaging in the overall life of the university," Spatig says.
New Mexico State University (NMSU) officials agree. A Hispanic-serving institution, the main campus in Las Cruces reports a record enrollment of 16,174 this year, and Hispanics make up about 45 percent of undergraduates.
When NMSU recruiters travel to high schools, community events and churches, they usually take students with ties to those geographical areas who can solidify the sales pitch. "When we go out across the state and showcase what our students are doing here, it's one of our best ways to draw new students to campus," says Dr. Gladys DeNecochea, vice president for student services and dean of students.
RISING COST OF ENROLLMENT
Nationally, full-time undergraduates are paying an average $4,600 for in-state tuition and fees at public universities this year, estimates Travis Reindl, director of state policy analysis for the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU). That's $500 more than a year ago and a $850 increase from two years ago, Meanwhile, states have slashed their allocations for higher education by more than 4 percent this year to bridge deficits caused by shrinking government revenue. While the nation's economic recovery remains anemic, lawmakers in many states have sacrificed higher education spending rather than make politically unpopular cuts to health care, prisons and public schools. "Higher ed has gotten to be on the 'It'd be nice to do' list rather than the 'have to do' list," Reindl says.
So in some states, lawmakers have deregulated tuition, sparking even higher tuition increases than the national average, as well as fears that education will soon be out of the reach of many students, especially minorities, if the schools themselves are allowed to determine the rates with no government cap. …