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HBCU Students More Civic Oriented, Says Survey

A new survey says 79 percent of students attending historically Black colleges and universities highly value civic concerns, and more than half (52.7 percent) say “becoming a community leader” is an “essential” or “very important” goal. By comparison, only 35.2 percent of all students held such a view.

According to the results of the “The American Freshman: National Norms for Fall 2006” survey administered by the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, 42.5 percent of all students felt the desire to “influence social values.” But the proportion was higher at HBCUs, with 60.9 percent of students at private and 56.1 percent at public HBCUs expressing an interest in helping their communities.

The survey is based on the responses of 271,441 first-time, full-time students at 393 of the country’s baccalaureate colleges and universities. According to the study, the number of Black students who reported taking one or more Advanced Placement courses in high school (49.8 percent) was significantly less than Whites (61.1 percent) and Asians (73.1 percent).

These data suggest that even those Black students who attend rigorous high schools are not gaining access to AP classes at the same rate as other ethnic groups, says Dr. Sylvia Hurtado, director of the institute.

“Fewer AP classes ensure that African-American students will not have the advantages associated with access to the most competitive colleges,” she says.

This year’s entering college freshmen are also becoming less moderate in their political views than at any other point in the past 40 years, says the survey. The percentage of students identifying themselves as “liberal” (28.4 percent) and “conservative” (23.9 percent) is at its highest level since 1975. Those students who called themselves “middle-of-the-road” (43.1 percent) was at its lowest level since 1970.

A small majority — 52.7 percent — of conservative freshmen say that affirmative action in college admissions should be abolished, while 44.6 percent of liberals agree.

John H. Pryor, director of the Cooperative Institutional Research Program, says the lines are not drawn as liberal or conservative around issues of affirmative action.

“Liberal and conservative freshmen are divided … by gay rights and abortion,” he says. “Middle-of-the-road students are somewhat more liberal in their actual viewpoints. So some issues have been taken up as the core of liberal or conservative beliefs, while others have not.”

Two out of three students had concerns about financing their college education, according to the survey. Pryor says students who come from families that make less than $50,000 a year are more than seven times more likely to have concerns about finances than those who come from a family income of $100,000 or more.

— By Shilpa Banerji

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