MnSCU sees rise in ‘underrepresented students’

MnSCU’s increase could result in a similar surge of transfers at the U.

MnSCU sees rise in ‘underrepresented students’

Katherine Lymn

A bad economy and increased recruitment efforts have resulted in a rise in the number of minority and low-income students attending public colleges around Minnesota. Minnesota State Colleges and UniversitiesâÄô (MnSCU) 32 schools saw an 18 percent overall increase this fall in âÄúunderrepresented students,âÄù meaning students of color, low-income students and those whose parents did not attend college. This could result in a similar surge at the University of Minnesota, where the majority of transfer students âÄî 2,058 total âÄî come from MnSCU. âÄúSince we are a rather large feeder [of transfer students] to the University of Minnesota, itâÄôs certainly possible that the University would have more underrepresented students [in the future],âÄù said Melinda Voss, MnSCU spokeswoman. Rickey Hall, assistant vice president for equity and diversity, said the University does not offer any services specifically geared toward the underrepresented demographic. However, because many students of color are low-income or first-generation college students, centers like the Multicultural Center for Academic Excellence offer support services many underrepresented students qualify for. The MCAE provides academic services such as tutoring and programming to help the students âÄúget engagedâÄù in the University, Hall said. If the MnSCU surge does result in a similar increase at the University, Hall said a âÄúneeds assessmentâÄù would be necessary to make sure adequate services are provided for the demographic. âÄúWeâÄôd have to make sure that the students are being oriented sufficiently. WeâÄôd have to make sure certainly that the support services are there,âÄù Hall said. Although no plans have been made to accommodate a possible increase in underrepresented students, University spokesman Dan Wolter said officials are monitoring the surge at MnSCU and new services could be added depending on enrollment. Voss said that while it is difficult to attribute the increased enrollment at MnSCU schools to any one factor, it is partially due to an overall 7 percent increase in enrollment throughout the system. The poor economy and high unemployment are reasons many people who fall into the underrepresented demographic are enrolling in school. University economics professor Christopher Phelan said the increase could be evidence that the recession is hitting certain groups harder than others. If people of a certain ethnicity or income level are more likely to be jobless, they may also be more likely to go to school. âÄúYou either get a job or you go to school,âÄù Phelan said of the trend, attributing it to the weak economy. âÄúWell, itâÄôs harder to get a job, so you go to school.âÄù MnSCU also adopted a program in 2007 that targets potential underrepresented students with information about enrolling in community college, and Voss said this new program helped contribute to the surge.