University is reaching some diversity goals

by Nancy Ngo

University officials want to see greater retention and recruitment of students of color even though the school is already meeting several of its diversity goals.
An annual performance report released in December shows that the school is doing well, considering its U2000 goals — University-wide measures set by former president Nils Hasselmo — but did not reach some of its 1997 diversity goals.
In addition to diversity measures, other focal points of the U2000 plan include graduation rates, sponsored funding and school infrastructure. The areas represent places that the University finds critical in furthering an educational environment.
In other areas, only a few did not meet or exceed the year’s goals.
“I’m not terribly dissatisfied. I’d like to see the graduation rates go up, though,” said University President Mark Yudof.
The report shows that the University has improved its five-year graduation rate, but its success in reaching goals for students of color is mixed for different racial and ethnic students who entered as freshmen in 1992.
However, Yudof said it can be difficult to measure the school’s progress in this area because there has to be a five- to six-year wait before the University sees the impact of its graduation policies.
Although the school is only slightly behind some of its goals, University officials stressed that changing external factors and demographics make it important to pay attention to diversity.
Recent trends show that a lower number of students of color are graduating from Minnesota public high schools. Also, a decline in the number of students of color taking the ACT college admissions test in the state reflects the decreasing number of students going to college.
The report noted that the 13.2 percent of students of color in the entering freshman class was below the University’s diversity goals. The school hopes to reach 16 percent by the year 2000.
Bob Kvavik, University associate vice president and provost, told the Board of Regents that the University needs financial aid incentives such as merit-based scholarships to attract students of color who plan to attend college.
“We need more investment in financial aid because that’s what it’s going to take to aggressively pursue higher level ability students,” Kvavik said.
However, Yudof emphasized that although some level of merit-based aid is needed, a public institution should also make sure that the school is accessible to as many students as possible.
Aiming for those top five students out of each high school hinders access to education, he said.
“We need to highlight overall investment in diversity. We can’t drive all these indicators right from the top in order to get to our mission,” Yudof said.
Kvavik said he isn’t displeased with how the University has already been doing in getting students to come to the school.
“We’re getting 40 percent of students of color who take the ACT in Minnesota and go to colleges in Minnesota. That’s been pretty consistent over the last few years.”
Kvavik said the goal is not to do better than that percentile, but to increase the pool of those who want to attend college and recruit those who might go out of the state.
Regent Michael O’Keefe said he also wanted to see the University continuing its stronghold on relationships with other schools in the state.
“If this University is going to improve in education, it is not only on our own programs, but on our relationship with other school systems,” he said.
Bob Bruininks, executive vice president and provost, said academic enrichment programs were key in raising students’ achievement levels.
One such program the University wants to model itself after is the Minority Encouragement Program, in which 80 percent of students who participate attend the University afterward. An average of 200 students participate at one time.
The worries of a lowered recruitment rate and decreasing number of Minnesota high school students of color comes during a decade in which the state’s minority population is on the rise.
A U.S. Census Bureau report shows that Minnesota’s minority population has risen in the 1990s, but still represents only 6 percent of the state’s population.