Dear BI Career Consultants:
With colleges and universities increasingly changing many of their retention, scholarship and other programs from targeting only African American students, what can I do as an administrator to keep my university committed to increasing their Black student enrollment and graduation rates?
Dr. Donnie Perkins,
Dean and Director
Office of Affirmative Action and Diversity
If not you, then who? What better person than you to maintain the commitment to equity and social justice for Black students and society at large?
Become familiar with the standards of Regents of the University of California v. Bakke and other relevant rulings. In Bakke, the Supreme Court ruled that colleges and universities may take race and ethnicity into consideration to foster the diversity of their student body. Quotas and set-asides in admissions were deemed illegal. Check with legal counsel to assess the status of Bakke in your state. Develop and implement a plan of action that is consistent with your mission and complies with current state and federal law.
Explain to parents and students how your admissions policies support Black student enrollment and diversity. They want and need to know. Inform students and parents of the academic and social expectations throughout the recruitment process. Students need to know that excellence leads to graduation.
Continue to develop, fund and operate college preparation, early awareness and intervention programs that prepare Black and diverse middle- and high-school students for success in college. Federal TRIO programs and programs such as Connecticut’s Collegiate Awareness Preparation Programs
(ConnCAP) should be expanded.
Provide students and parents a sense of the campus climate for African American students, faculty and staff. What is the status of African Americans in professional and faculty ranks? What are the perceptions of African Americans on campus?
Dialogue sessions with students, faculty and administrators foster communication and build a sense of community. Encourage students to participate in study groups that promote cross-racial and cultural dialogue and learning.
Support participation in co-op and study-abroad programs, internships, work-study, and leadership development and community service opportunities to increase confidence, self-esteem and cultural awareness.
To serve Black students well, administrators must share our history, struggle and achievements. We should be open to change and recognize that students come to us with very different experiences. Educate and give students strategies to succeed in spite of continued racism and discrimination. If not you, then who?
Dr. James Louis Williams,
Associate Director of
Admissions and Enrollment Management
Southern Connecticut State University
New Haven, Conn.
A key strategy for universities and colleges is to build relationships with younger students before they reach high-school age, in early awareness programs and middle schools. This involves networking and partnering with community groups such as YMCA, Jack & Jill of America Inc., local churches, community-action agencies and after-school programs that offer tutor-mentoring programs. Former graduates who may be teachers or volunteers in local communities could assist in identifying and mentoring talented teens or younger Black students and inform them about the various programs and degree offerings. High schools might experiment with journalistic writing as a means to improve the writing and composition skills of students.
Black students in the college pipeline face many obstacles including tougher high school graduation requirements, standardized tests and lack of money. National retention rates, especially among Black students, are disheartening. We need to do a better job helping students once they have enrolled in college to persist and complete their degrees. More attention and incentives should be directed at persistence among students who are economically and academically at risk. Colleges and universities should provide support services for students not just on a tutorial basis, but also in the form of classroom instructions.
Black faculty, Black administrators and Black student leaders should work together on campus to continue to express the need for an institutional commitment for recruitment and for internal support for programs. Administrators have to do more to increase the change for more minorities to attend universities and colleges. Universities have a lot more work to do to ensure that Black students have the benefit of a higher education. Diversity is an important feature of a higher education environment and must be cultivated. On campus, programs should be effective as well as provide enriching educational experiences and a supportive campus environment.
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