Minority numbers higher than national average

Justin Horwath

Minority populations at the University increased 60 percent from 1994 to 2004, 10 percentage points more than the national average at four-year institutions in the same decade, according to University data contrasted with an American Council on Education report released Tuesday.

Minority student enrollment, however, still lags significantly behind the number of white students attending the University and other four-year higher education institutions in that decade.

Although minority populations generally see more dramatic increases than white students each year, their overall populations remain drastically lower than white populations nationally.

The report’s definition of minority populations included American Indians, African Americans, Asians and Hispanics. This article, however, does not include the number of “not reported” or international students. The number of “not reported” students increased by 260 percent, according University data.

At the University, 48,094 white students attended in 2004 – a 21 percent increase since 1994 – while the University reported 7,655 minority students enrolled in 2004, a 31 percent increase in the same time period.

Vice president and vice provost for the Office of Equity and Diversity Nancy Barceló said this type of data can oftentimes be skewed due to terms like “Hispanic,” which doesn’t show what race a person is.

“I think we have to aggregate that data and show what it truly tells,” she said.

She said trends in minority enrollment in higher education are “flat, but certainly going in the right direction.”

In 1994, minorities accounted for 10 percent of the student population at the University. A decade later that number increased to 12 percent.

At the University, meanwhile, total student population increased 31 percent to 63,769 in that decade.

Reporting methods have become more complex in that decade, however. In the 10-year period at the University, the number of “not reported” students increased 260 percent, according to University data.

Bryan Cook, a co-author of the American Council on Education report, said the most striking statistic is the number of students reported as “racially unknown.”

“Racially unknown” students, the same category as “not reported,” show the largest increases. The group would be the third largest minority group, if classified as one, he said.

Cook, who is also the associate director for the Center of Policy Analysis at the American Council on Education, said the biggest cause for concern in minority enrollment in higher education is the college participation rate of minorities compared to whites.

The gap between minorities and whites who are 18- to 24-year-old high school graduates enrolled in higher education institutions in America has not closed in that decade, despite significant increases in minority enrollment, Cook said.

“It begs the question: There might be more minority students that delay enrolling in college,” he said.

“I think what the trend suggests is that we’ve made significant improvements and access to minorities in higher education,” he added of the percentage increases in minority enrollment.

Barceló, whose office heads system-wide diversity initiatives at the University, said one of the biggest obstacles in recruiting minority students is that “we’re getting a percentage of those who are surviving (high-school).”

The pool of minority students graduating from high school is much smaller than that of whites, she said.

The cited report, Minorities in Higher Education Twenty-Second Annual Status Report: 2007 Supplement, uses 18- to 24-year-old students in higher education enrollment. So, there might be slight disparities in contrasting the report with University data, since that includes all ages of enrollment.

Shefali V. Mehta, a former intern at the Minnesota Office of Higher Education and an applied economics doctoral candidate at the University, said the statistics used from the American Council on Education don’t differentiate between private and public institutions.

“The demographics are really different in private and public institutions,” she said.

Black student enrollment jumped 70 percent in that decade, from 1,175 black students enrolled at the University in 1994 to 1,994 in 2004. That remains the highest percentage increase of any minority group at the University.

The American Council on Education reported a 44 percent increase in blacks enrolled in four-year higher education institutions in that same time period.

Moreover, the American Council on Education reported Hispanics seeing the highest enrollment increases in that decade at 73 percent.

However, that may be a deceptive statistic because, “the growth in the number of Hispanics aged 18 to 24 years old who were enrolled in higher education (have not

increased) as fast as the growth of the general Hispanic population,” the report states.

University data shows that Hispanic student enrollment increased 56 percent in that decade to 1,064 Hispanic students enrolled in 2004.