Smaller Texas institutions expect increased minority presence as a result of Hopwood decision

Austin, Texas

While the University of Texas and Texas A&M
University have experienced a decline in minority applicants because of
the Hopwood ruling, officials at Stephen F. Austin State University in
eastern Texas anticipate an increase in minority enrollment this fall.

“I don’t think Hopwood is going to be of a significant impact,”
said Roger Bilow, director of admissions at the small independent
university in Nacogdoches, about 150 miles northeast of Houston.

Although Bilow does not have a racial breakdown of the applicants
for fall 1997, he said aggressive minority recruiting has increased
campus diversity and will maintain it despite the court ruling that
ended affirmative action in recruiting, admissions, financial aid and
scholarships in Texas higher education. Last fall, 892 of the
university’s 11,690 students were African American, a larger percentage
of the student body than those who attended the University of Texas
(UT) or Texas A&M.

But a more important factor may be the school’s size.

“We don’t have the luxury of a cap on enrollment [like UT and Texas
A&M],” Bilow said, so the university can offer partial scholarships
to more students and be more flexible in admissions. The other two
institutions are flooded with admission applications each year and, as
a result, they have set limits on the number of students they accept
annually and have more stringent admissions requirements.

Discussions about Hopwood often have focused on the state’s
flagship universities because although historically they have enrolled
few minorities, they receive more state appropriations than other
public universities. UT and Texas A&M enrolled about 48,000 and
38,000 students last year, respectively. The universities also have
been negatively perceived by many African Americans because of
segregation and ongoing, highly publicized racial incidents in recent
years. Hopwood, which originated at the UT law school, exacerbates the
perception that the university is not welcoming to minorities.

“A&M and UT are dealing with perceptions in the minds of
minority applicants. You see potential anti-Black rhetoric at these
universities,” said Alonzo Jones, director of Upward Bound at Southwest
Texas State University in San Marcos.

Smaller public universities such as Stephen F. Austin and the
historically Black colleges and universities, which have attracted the
vast majority of minority students in Texas public higher education,
remain a viable option for African American students seeking a
four-year degree or more.

“Students that normally will apply to UT undoubtedly will go
somewhere,” said Jones, whose program prepares low-income minority high
school students for college.

Fall 1996 figures from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating
Board show that about one-third of African American students at Texas
public universities attend two HBCUs — Prairie View A&M University
and Texas Southern University. The remainder are concentrated at public
universities, including those in the University of Houston system,
which have smaller student bodies than UT and Texas A&M.

While largely based on anecdotal information, administrators at
HBCUs expect increased enrollment because of Hopwood. There are several
reasons, but one stands out: African American students will not have to
compete with white students for limited financial aid and scholarships,
which admission officials say is a driving factor in selecting a
university.

“Anything to do with money is a big help. It’s a kind of a `Jerry
McGuire’ mentality, `Show me the money,'” Bilow said, referring to a
popular movie.

Jones agrees with Bilow that smaller public universities will not
be as hard hit as UT and Texas A&M in enrolling minority students,
although they also will have to find race-neutral ways to channel
financial aid and scholarship dollars to minority students.
Nonetheless, the Hopwood ruling resurrects troubling issues about
educational equity for Jones and others.

“Hopwood focuses on fighting over a handful of Blacks. We need to
focus on taking a kid from not going to college to going to college,”
said Jones.

Those are often students who are the first in their families to
attend college and for whom financial aid means the difference between
going to school or working full time. Blacks comprise only 6 percent of
Southwest Texas State’s 21,000 students, he said, underscoring the need
to increase minority enrollment in all state colleges and universities,

“It’s a pipeline issue. The pool of college-bound African American
students is what needs to be increased. That has to be done on a
kindergarten through twelfth-grade level,” said Jones.

COPYRIGHT 1997 Cox, Matthews & Associates



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