WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Purdue University needs to become more affordable and create additional programs to retain students to improve its campus diversity, the school’s vice provost for diversity and inclusion says in a report.
Purdue is able to attract top minority students but lags behind other Big Ten institutions and other peer schools in the number of those students that it enrolls, the report by Vice Provost Christine Taylor also says.
“At the end of the day, at the end of that four-year degree, we have to ask ourselves, have we done the most that we can to prepare every student at Purdue to be successful,” Taylor said. “In an increasing global and competitive environment, we know that diversity helps students do that.”
Taylor’s recently released report will be used this fall in discussions among university officials. They’re developing a plan to increase the representation and success of women and minorities who attend the West Lafayette school or serve on its staff and faculty.
The report said only 4 percent of Purdue’s undergraduate and graduate students are Black, or half of the state percentage. Also, while women comprise 51 percent of the general population, they make up only 42 percent of Purdue students.
Purdue ranks second from the bottom among Big Ten and other peer schools in minorities (5 percent) and women (30 percent) among full-time faculty and female students, the report says. The school ranked fourth from the bottom, at 13 percent, for enrollment of domestic minority students.
Senior Alex Padgett said he did not need a report to tell him that Purdue’s minority numbers were lacking.
“It’s something you expect. Purdue has historically been made up of mostly White men for years,” said Padgett, who is Black. “If they want to add more color to campus, that’s great. But I don’t think it’s going to be a deal breaker for minorities that want to come to Purdue if the numbers stay the same.”
“We come to Purdue for the education, not for the ratio of Blacks to Whites,” he said.
Junior Tiffany Smith said she was surprised to learn that Purdue had relatively few women on campus.
“It’s not something you notice as quickly as race,” said Smith, who is White. “When going from class to class, I see as many men as I see women. I’ve also had lots of female professors and TAs (teaching assistants).”
Taylor’s report proposed increasing the percentages among the entire student population to 15 percent for African-Americans and Hispanics and 50 percent for women. Taylor said more outreach and scholarships might be needed to draw women and minorities to the school.