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ACE Report On Minorities Cites Enrollment Gains, Retention Problems

College enrollment of Hispanic students jumped nearly 70 percent between 1994-2004 while the number of Blacks earning bachelor’s degrees in computer science and other science fields increased dramatically, according to a report released today on the status of minorities in higher education.

An analysis by the American Council on Education found that minority enrollment rose by 50.7 percent between the 1993-04 and 2003-04 school years to total more than 4.7 million students. The number of White students remained relatively flat, growing by only 3.4 percent, to 10.5 million, according to “The Minorities in Higher Education Twenty-second Annual Status Report.”

American Indians achieved gains in all degree categories over the period studied, with the most significant increase occurring at the master’s degree level. Foreign students were the only group in 2003-04 to have earned more master’s degrees than bachelor’s and associate degrees combined.

While more minority students are enrolling in college, the percent staying through the completion of their degree is troubling, experts say.

“As I look at this report, I am pleased to see people of color making gains in college enrollment and degree attainment over the 10 years covered in the report, but I am more struck by the gaps that still persist and believe they only hold our nation back politically and economically,” said Dr. David Ward, president of ACE, which represents more than 1,600 college and university and 200 associations.

Hispanic student growth outpaced all racial/ethnic groups, increasing by nearly 70 percent, to 1.6 million enrolled in the fall of 2003. The largest growth took place in four-year institutions, where Hispanic enrollment rose by 75.1 percent, compared with a 64.2 percent increase at two-year institutions. Hispanics accounted for 41 percent of the new minority students over the past 10 years.

For the first time in the Status Report’s 22-year history, it includes enrollment data for Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs), whose full-time enrollment is at least 25 percent Hispanic. In 1995, when HSIs first received special federal funding, they numbered 163 two- and four-year institutions and enrolled 39 percent of all Hispanic students. By 2003, the number of HSIs rose to 316 institutions, which accounted for more than half of all Hispanic enrollment.

HBCUs saw an 8.3 percent increase in enrollment between 1993 and 2003, and enrolled more than 303,500 students. About 17,650 students were enrolled in tribal colleges in 2003.

Retention issues continue to be a troubling spot in higher education. Among students who began during the 1995-96 academic year, Asian-American students had the highest rate of attaining a bachelor’s degree, 62.3 percent, followed by White students, 58 percent of whom graduated by July 2000. Black students had the largest percentage of students with no degree, but still enrolled (25.6 percent), as well as those without a degree and no longer enrolled (30.1 percent).

Spelman College President Beverly Daniel Tatum attributed low retention rates to a lack of financial aid and preparation in K-12 education, including limited access to Advanced Placement and Honors classes in high school. “We need to look at the commitment of resources,” she said. “It is very difficult for students who want to pursue an education to obtain finances. Most of our students are working part-time, more than we would like to see and some are full time.”

Despite the retention problem, there was a dramatic shift in the number of Blacks earning bachelor’s degrees in the fields of computer sciences, health professions, biological sciences and business. There was a 162.7 percent increase in the number of Black students earning degrees in computer science; 68.5 percent in health professions; 66.2 percent increase in biological sciences, and a 62.4 percent increase in business.

The report also found:

–African Americans more than doubled the number of master’s degrees they earned annually, from 20,000 degrees in 1993-94 to 45,000.

–American Indian enrollment grew by 38.7 percent in the 10-year period, up from more than 117,000 in 1993 to nearly 163,000 in 2003.

–Enrollment of students whose race/ethnicity is unknown increased by 114 percent to total slightly more than 1 million.

— The number full-time faculty positions held by minorities grew from 65,000 in 1993 to more than 97,000 in 2003.

The Status Report uses data from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and the U.S. Census Bureau.

–Dianne Hayes

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