Minority College Enrollment Up in Connecticut, but Hispanics Underrepresented

Minority College Enrollment Up in Connecticut, but Hispanics Underrepresented

HARTFORD, Conn.

      Minority enrollment and graduation rates continue to increase at Connecticut colleges and universities, but Hispanic students remain underrepresented compared to their population statewide.

      Hispanics receive less than 5 percent of the undergraduate degrees awarded at Connecticut’s four-year universities, but comprise almost 10 percent of the state’s population, according to a report issued last week by the state Department of Higher Education.

      The disparity worries education officials because the state’s Hispanic population is soaring and, in the long run, Connecticut’s professional work force will not reflect the state’s demographics unless the trend is reversed.

      The report now heads to Gov. M. Jodi Rell and the General Assembly. It will be accompanied by a request from the department’s board of governors to double the state’s $2.7 million annual allocation for programs that help prepare minorities for college.

      A separate report released by the Department of Higher Education also shows a growing gap between male and female college students. Women now comprise almost 60 percent of the state’s college students, both because they are enrolling in greater numbers and, at the same time, fewer men are enrolling.

      Questions of how to increase minority enrollment, and how to increase enrollment among minority and non-minority males, both have raised concerns about how to better prepare students for higher education.

      Arthur Poole, director of the Higher Education Department’s office of educational opportunity, says Black and Hispanic students are disproportionately heading to two-year programs instead of four-year universities.

      Nearly 63 percent of minority students enroll in the state’s 12 two-year colleges, compared with 21 percent at Connecticut State University campuses and 16 percent at the University of Connecticut.

      “It looks like there’s a bottleneck occurring at community colleges,” Poole says, attributing the trend to financial factors and inadequate preparation for four-year programs.

      In many cases, those students did not know in high school that they needed to prepare themselves by taking more challenging college-preparatory courses, and therefore struggled when they got to college, he says.

      The programs funded by the $2.7 million annual state allocation, along with a separate federal program, are meant to address that and would be expanded if state leaders double the funding as requested.

      Generally, minority enrollment in colleges and universities remains on the rise, though. Black, Hispanic, Asian and American Indian students comprise about 23,500 of the state’s approximately 94,700 college students, or almost 25 percent. That’s higher than the 21 percent that those groups represent in the Connecticut population as a whole.

      In each of the minority groups, there is a larger percentage in college than in the general population — except Hispanics, which comprise 9 percent of the state’s college students and just under 10 percent of the state’s population.

      The separate report on 2006 higher education trends exposed the growing gender gap. Since 1976, the number of men in Connecticut colleges and universities has dropped by 4 percent while the number of women increased by 44 percent, the report said.

      “This really is a scratch-your-head issue,” says Higher Education Commissioner Valerie Lewis.

      Connecticut education officials plan to examine the gender gap in more detail and determine what steps should be taken to encourage more male students to seek college degrees.

      Some colleges already have added offerings to their curriculum that traditionally draw more males, such as criminal justice and emergency-response courses.

      — Associated Press



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