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Growth In Minority Student Enrollment Gives Rise To More MSIs

More minority undergraduate students are enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities than ever before, and more of them are choosing minority-serving institutions such as historically Black colleges and universities, Asian-serving institutions and Hispanic-serving institutions.

According to a report released Tuesday by the National Center for Education Statistics, undergraduate enrollment in the United States increased by 39 percent between the years of 1984 and 2004. During that time span, minority enrollment more than doubled, increasing from 1.9 million to 4.7 million.

Conversely, White undergraduate enrollment only grew by 15 percent.

In 2004, minority students constituted nearly one-third of the total undergraduate enrollment. The increase in visibility of minority students on college and university campuses, analysts say, reflects the shift in the general demographics of the U.S. population. In both 1994 and 2004, the proportion of undergraduates who were minority students was comparable to the proportion of the general population who were people of color.

Hispanic undergraduate enrollment had the highest growth, at 237 percent, among racial/ethnic groups, followed by Asian, American Indian, and Black enrollment. Black undergraduates remained the largest single minority group on U.S. college campuses.

“We feel that it’s natural for students to gravitate toward HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions such as Hispanic-serving institutions,” says Jorge Haynes, senior director of external relation for the California State University system, which is home to 12 HSIs. “When you look at a Cal State Los Angeles or Cal State Dominguez Hills, you find faculty that look like you, [college] presidents that look like you and a number of support groups that can be helpful.

“In terms of raw numbers, the numbers look pretty good,” Haynes says. However, he cautions that “if you factor in the population growth, you recognize that these [gains] are only modest increases.”


Percentage change in undergraduate enrollment between



African American



American Indian

1984 and 1994







1994 and 2004







1984 and 2004







 The increased enrollment of minority undergraduates was coupled with an expansion of MSIs over the past two decades. The total number of minority-serving institutions increased from 414 in 1984 to 1,254 in 2004.

HSIs made the most significant increase during the reported time span. In 1984, there were fewer than 60 HSIs nationwide. This figure increased to 366 in 2004. Institutions qualify as a Hispanic-serving institution when 25 percent of their full-time students are Hispanic.

A recent study by Excelencia in Education, titled “Choosing Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs): A Closer Look at Latino Students’ College Choices,” found that most Hispanic students’ college decisions are motivated by factors such as open admissions policies, locations in close proximity to large Latino populations and costs. As a result, the students don’t enroll in HSIs intentionally, but end up creating them when the Hispanic student population hits 25 percent.

While the number of HBCUs declined by five from 1984 to 2004, the number of predominantly Black institutions surged, increasing from seven in 1984 to 16 in 2004.

The report also noted that there were differences in the characteristics of minority students attending MSIs and those attending predominately White institutions (PWI). Black and Hispanic undergraduates enrolled in MSIs were more likely to be older, attend school part-time and have lower incomes than their counterparts attending PWIs.

Among Black students attending predominantly Black schools, 49 percent were 24 years of age or older, and 42 percent of Hispanic undergraduates enrolled in MSIs were low-income students, compared to 30 percent of Hispanics enrolled in PWIs.

“Part of the reason I chose a historically Black college was for the experience,” says Tatiana Miller, a 2006 graduate of Clark Atlanta University. “I knew that I would find curriculum that catered to my interests, professors that looked like me and a family atmosphere. Clark Atlanta also afforded me the benefit of  small class sizes. I was able to receive the individual attention that I needed.”

–Michelle J. Nealy

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