Plan for GC might hurt U’s diversity

An academic task force proposed to get rid of the General College.

Anna Weggel

After University officials announced a proposal last week that would close General College, the future of diversity at the University has become a concern for some.

The plan, created by an academic task force, proposes to dissolve the college into a department within the College of Education and Human Development. Under the plan, current General College students would be integrated into other colleges.

Political science junior and General College student Chris Montana said restructuring General College is not a good idea because the college acts as a gateway for many students.

Montana, who is black, said he trusts University officials will do whatever they can to make sure diverse students are admitted.

“It’s clear, however, that there’s incredible diversity in that building,” Montana said, referring to Appleby Hall, where General College is located.

“I think that you’re definitely going to see the general diversity of the University of Minnesota take a hit.”

The academic task force report stated that in fall, minority students accounted for 16.4 percent of University undergraduates.

The report stated that during the last decade, the University has enrolled 77 percent more minority students.

In his speech Tuesday at a Carlson School of Management luncheon, University President Bob Bruininks said he doesn’t think the General College model works anymore.

But he said the changes at the University are not about being elitist.

“We want this to be access to success,” he said.

Planning to diversify

The academic task force, which is composed of nine University administrators and professors, included a section on enhancing access and diversity in its proposal.

If the plan is approved, the University will enhance coordination of pre-K-12 partnerships designed to help improve curriculum standards, preparation for higher education and student enrichment programs.

The most recent data for the 2003-04 academic school year shows minority students make up 12.7 percent of all public high school graduates in Minnesota, the report stated.

“Students and parents who are aware, well in advance, of the academic and financial requirements of education beyond high school have better capacity to prepare for success in higher education,” the report stated.

In addition, the plan recommended the University remain committed to scholarship support for its most needy students and make information about that support available.

At his State of the University address, Bruininks announced the Founders Opportunity Scholarship, which is designed to help fill the gap in funding that some low-income students see between grant assistance and tuition and fees.

The report also stressed the importance of making sure the University respects and supports diversity by paying special attention to recruiting, retaining and graduating a diverse student body.

“A hallmark of a University of Minnesota education should be an increased understanding of and sensitivity to the broad spectrum of diversity,” the report stated.

Bridging the gap

Montana, who is also the College Democrats of Minnesota president, said he attended Minneapolis South High School, which had two college high school counselors for 2,200 students.

Recently, the school let one of the counselors go, he said.

“One college counselor for that many students is an absolute travesty,” he said.

Montana said students need to learn about postsecondary options at an early age.

General College student Ben Lenyard, who is black, said that if the University doesn’t have General College anymore, it should put money back into inner-city schools that have low funding.

This will help those schools have more resources to help students attend colleges with higher acceptance standards, he said.

“It’s a horrible decision,” Lenyard said. “The decision results in disenfranchisement of people from economically challenged backgrounds.”

Montana said he doesn’t blame the University administration for the changes being proposed but rather the Legislature for a lack of University funding.

“Until we get out of the mindset that we want to pay very, very little but expect a great return for our higher education, you’re going to keep seeing things like this,” he said.

“This isn’t going to be the first college that we see get axed.”

– Brady Averill and Derrick Biney contributed to this report.