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Our Top 100 Tops 100,000

Our Top 100 Tops 100,000

For the 10th consecutive year, Black Issues In Higher Education has produced its rankings of the top 100 institutions that graduate the most students of color. Over the years, we have seen a steady increase in the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded to African American students, and for the first time, using 1999-2000 data, we can report that the number of bachelor’s degrees conferred upon African American students exceeded 100,000.
That’s a big deal and very good news! However, I qualify that statement. Since data from 1998-1999 are not reliable, (see page 40 for data interpretation), it is not known for certain whether African American bachelor’s degrees topped 100,000 in 1998-1999. But since it definitely did in 1999-2000, we think it’s worth a mention and look forward to seeing the numbers increase in years to come.
As you will read in Dr. Victor Borden’s “Interpreting the Data,” the preliminary data for 1999-2000 show a slight decline in the number and percentage of bachelor’s degrees awarded by historically Black colleges and universities to African American students.
Dr. Reginald Wilson, senior scholar emeritus for the American Council on Education, says that more financial aid available at non-HBCUs and the breaking of family traditions to attend a certain HBCU has cut into the African American enrollment at these institutions. Nevertheless, HBCUs continue to play an important role in conferring degrees to African American students. The top six of the top 100 institutions graduating the most Black students are HBCUs.
In addition to African Americans, all minority groups are graduating in higher numbers. “Is Higher Education Ready for Minority America?” is the question senior writer Ronald Roach examines in his article (see page 29). Census 2000 data shows that the complexion of the United States is “radically” changing with huge increases in the Latino and Asian American population. College enrollment is expected to increase by 1.6 million by 2015. Education officials say there’s enough space to accommodate the students. But others in the higher education community ask whether there will be enough financial aid? And will the climate on college campuses be welcoming to the influx of students of color?
Speaking of feeling welcome, the University of California Regents recently repealed their ban on affirmative action, hoping to send a welcoming message to Black and Latino students (see page 10). The gesture is only a symbolic one since California’s Proposition 209 is the law. However, with the UC system finding it difficult to recruit qualified Black and Latino students because of Proposition 209, the regents want minority students to know that they are an “open and welcoming university.” In support of the measure was Proposition 209’s chief architect Ward Connerly, who says that the change still does not address the achievement gap faced by Black and Latino students in California. 
There is another gap facing African Americans in academia, as well as Latinos and American Indians. A study recently conducted by a University of Oklahoma chemistry professor found that no African American chemistry professors had been hired at the top 50 chemistry departments (as ranked by the National Science Foundation) in 10 years (see page 12).
The African American chemistry professors in these top departments that I spoke with said this was not because of the lack of chemistry doctorates looking for faculty positions, as they recalled candidates being interviewed but not hired. A young African American female who recently received her doctorate in chemistry says that she chose an industry position over academia, not so much because of the potential to earn more money, but because the thought of tenure pressure, grant-writing pressure and not to mention another pressure — racial tensions within the departments — were all too stressful.
The fact is it is not easy to be a person of color in higher education at any level, but still we manage to excel. And now that we have reached the 100,000 mark, there is no looking back.
As well, with African Americans on the move in the academy, the desire by institutions to establish a more tolerant and welcoming environment for students, faculty and staff must stay at the forefront of the academic agenda. 

Hilary Hurd

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