The online version of Diverse last month ran a story about Black enrollment at the University of Texas at Austin exceeding pre-Hopwood levels for the first time in the decade since the race-neutral admissions mandate was decided by the federal courts. Upon reading the story, a professor from Texas questioned the significance of the statistics used in the story by the Associated Press. She noted that the story played up the fact that 1,939 Black students were enrolled this fall compared to 1,911 Black students enrolled in 1996. She wrote:
“In an in-class assignment related to this article — students felt that the statistic is quite misleading — especially when simple mathematics is applied and, over the decade (1996-2006), this is being reported as a significant level. When we calculate the difference in Black student enrollment, it is only a difference of 28 students in the ten-year span.
Our question: Is this really such a profound difference in Black student enrollment as one is led to believe from this article, especially when the total student enrollment at the University of Texas was 49,738 baccalaureate, graduate and law students enrolled in the fall of 2006?”
The 1996 Hopwood v. Texas case attempted to eliminate “race-conscious affirmative action” in college admissions. Within a year of the Hopwood decision, the majority of the state’s public institutions reported substantial decreases in minority enrollment. Over the next 10 years, only some of the schools have shown an increase in minority enrollment, and those increases have been slight. At UT-Austin, as the reader noted, it was a net increase of 28 students over those 10 years.
The professor and her students are right to question how that statistic was used. It is important to note that actual increases or decreases in student numbers are irrelevant, unless you look at total population shifts and the percentage changes in a particular group’s share of the total student enrollment.
In 1996, Black students represented 4 percent of UT-Austin’s 48,008 student body. Today, they comprise 3.9 percent. So, they’re not quite at pre-Hopwood levels.
But even reaching pre-Hopwood levels is nothing to brag about. According the 2005 American Community Survey by the U.S. Census Bureau, Blacks, including those mixed with other races, account for 11.5 percent of the Texas population. University enrollment should be representative of the statewide population. So I can’t wait to read the news story that says UT-Austin’s Black enrollment is 11.5 percent.
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