Demographics and Issues of Retention
The United States is “becoming a nation of multiple minorities with no majority group,” according to a recent study by the Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education. This demographic shift, therefore, poses opportunities and challenges to our national higher educational system.
Higher education academicians are now concerned with issues of enrollment management; distance education; virtual classrooms; international education; and diversity. However, in this new society, producing quality students must remain our central focus. To fulfill this responsibility, the university must:
• Provide students with opportunities that encourage personal growth through a wide variety of curricular and extra-curricular developmental, recreational and cultural programs;
• Develop international relationships with appropriate institutions and agencies for mutual enrichment, promoting education, the arts and technology;
• Extend educational opportunities and services to the region through the use of external learning sites and alternative program delivery systems; and
• Maintain an environment that enhances the professional and personal development of students, faculty and staff.
The role of the university community should be to develop a supportive student and learner-centered campus community, which enhance both academic and personal-learning opportunities for students and other citizens.
The profile of the student body in American higher education has changed, and will continue to diversify rapidly in the foreseeable future. While the diversity and number of students are expected to continue to increase in American higher education, institutions are simultaneously being asked to become more financially efficient and more accountable for educational outcomes.
Recent demographic projections from the U.S. Census and immigration statistics suggest that about 65 percent of the projected growth in population through the year 2020 will be in ethnic minority groups, particularly in the Hispanic and Asian populations.
Taking into account these demographic changes, the mission of the university has to be to develop within its students, knowledge, fluency, inquiry, an appreciation of ethical, aesthetic and cultural values, an understanding of basic scientific principles, and an awareness of international perspectives leading to good and contributive citizens. The university can achieve this mission by maintaining a collaborative working relationship with students, faculty, staff, parents and the surrounding community.
Education is the intricate part of the continuum that forms our society. As academia enters the new millennium, it is crucial that administrators, faculty, staff, students, parents and the community work collaboratively and cooperatively to ensure that academic excellence is achieved and maintained.
— Dr. Arnold is the associate to the president for equity, special programs and staff development at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania.
— Dr. Richard Arnold
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