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Cost Keeps College Out of Reach for Many Minority Students


Cost is one of the top barriers cited as a reason South Carolina’s largest colleges and universities have trouble increasing their percentages of Black students.

Across the state as a whole, Blacks made up 28 percent of campus enrollment in 2005 and 30 percent of the state’s population, according to a new report released by the Southern Region Education Board.

But at the state’s research campuses, such as Clemson University, the numbers are lower. At Clemson, for example, around 7 percent of its student population is Black.

“Cost is becoming a bigger and bigger barrier for that constituency,” said Byron Wiley, director of access and equity at Clemson.

Wiley said the increase in tuition coupled with few need-based financial aid options is hurting the university’s efforts to recruit more Black students.

“A lot of kids I work with would love to come here,” said Levon Kirkland, Clemson’s coordinator of minority recruitment initiatives. “It’s always heartbreaking when the reason they don’t come is the financial reason.”

Among Clemson’s efforts to attract more black students are summer programs, such as an SAT workshop aimed at top minority students and a science and engineering summer camp for rising eighth-grade girls from diverse backgrounds.

Lander University in Greenwood has had greater success diversifying its student population since an initiative pushed by then-president Larry Jackson when Lander became a public university in 1973, said Charlotte Cabri, a Lander spokeswoman.

At Lander, 24 percent of the students are black, “It was easy to get involved,” said Anna Pinckney, a 2005 graduate working in the school’s admissions office. “It wasn’t about black and white. Each organization involved everyone from every type of culture.”

In South Carolina, total college enrollment rose between 2001 and 2005 and black enrollment rose at the state’s teaching, two-year regional and technical colleges, according to the state Commission on Higher Education.

But the percentage of black students decreased at the state’s research universities: Clemson, the University of South Carolina and the Medical University of South Carolina.

“We are making progress, although it is somewhat easier to make that progress in the high-growth and lower-cost institutions,” said Gail Morrison, interim executive director of the state Commission on Higher Education.

“We have a tremendous need to help students coming from impoverished backgrounds,” Morrison said. “Unfortunately in South Carolina, poverty is often linked to race.”

That means those students likely will need scholarships.

Of $276.2 million in state scholarships and grants for the 2006-07 academic year, just $50.3 million were provided for need-based programs, according to state Commission on Higher Education figures. The remaining $225.9 million went to merit-based programs.

Associated Press

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