Students of Color Make Enrollment, Graduation Gains WASHINGTON
The number of students of color enrolling and graduating from the nation’s colleges and universities continues to climb steadily, according to an annual status report released last month by the American Council on Education’s (ACE) Office of Minorities in Higher Education (OMHE). Overall, enrollment by students of color jumped 48.3 percent from 1990 to 1999.
According to the report, Minorities in Higher Education 2001-02: Nineteenth Annual Status Report, postsecondary enrollment for students of color rose by 3.3 percent between 1998 and 1999 (the last year for which data is available) — continuing a trend of modest increases that began in the early 1990s. The latest number is a slight improvement over last year when enrollment rose by 3.2 percent.
The report also shows that students of color have experienced gains in all four categories of academic degree attainment. In 1999, students of color experienced combined increases of 11.7 percent in the number of associate’s degrees they earned, 5.8 percent at the bachelor’s degree level, 8.1 percent at the master’s degree level, 2.5 percent at the doctoral level, and 3.4 percent at the first-professional degree.
But ACE officials and others involved in the production of the report, which looks at a range of indicators from high school completion rates to faculty representation and employment trends, are quick to point out the increase does not suggest “all is well” in regard to minority students, faculty and administrators in higher education.
The report’s numbers also point to “glaring inequities and gaps between students from minority populations and their White counterparts,” says Dr. William B. Harvey, vice president and director of OMHE and author of the report.
According to the report, African Americans and Hispanics continue to trail Whites in rates of high school completion as well as in college participation. As well, disparities appear in enrollment patterns with a disproportionate number of Black and Latino students enrolled in two-year colleges.
Inequities also appear within minority populations, specifically in regard to the increasing gender gap in the African American community. While the college participation rate among African American females increased by 4 percentage points, to 43.9 percent, the rate for African American males declined by 5 percentage points, to 33.8 percent.
The report however does point out the “continued vitality and importance” of historically Black colleges and institutions and Hispanic-serving institutions, says Dr. John Garland, chair of the ACE Commission on Minorities in Higher Education and president of Central State University in Ohio.
“While we represent less than 3 percent of the nation’s colleges and universities, we continue to graduate 25 percent of all African American graduates. And 19 percent of all African Americans who get professional degrees get them from HBCUs,” Garland says.
Harvey, who also served as author of last year’s report, considers this year’s findings of particular importance when placed in the context of recent census data that indicates an influx of minority students on college campuses in the future.
In light of the census data, the report “underscores the importance of investing in these students,” Harvey says.
Sources of the data sets used in the report included the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, the U.S. Bureau of the Census, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
For more information visit the American Council on Education’s Web site at <www.acenet.edu>.
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