U minority enrollment not up to par

By and

Minority students across the country are being accepted to colleges and universities in higher numbers than ever before, but they’re still behind whites when it comes to college participation, according to a report released by the American Council on Education.

“Our colleges and universities have experienced substantial gains in minority enrollment over the last 20 years, but there is still much more to be done,” ACE President David Ward said in a written statement.

Over those past two decades, minority enrollment at colleges and universities across the country has seen a 122 percent increase, from 2 million in 1980 to 4.3 million in 2001.

But at the U, the numbers have risen much more slowly.

Since 1980, when 4.6 percent of all students at the U were minorities, minority percentages have risen by only 2.9 percent in the last 22 years to its current total of 7.5 percent.

Though administrators at the U are aware of the slow rise in numbers, it’s something that’s been addressed head-on and will continue to grow, said Barbara Snyder, U vice president of academic affairs.

“We’ve been successful in raising the number of minority students, but we’re not where we want to be,” she said.

But with programs like the Utah Opportunity Scholarship and the Larry H. Miller Scholarship, the U is taking steps to boost those numbers even more.

Established three years ago, the Utah Opportunity Scholarship goes to 20 students a year and covers the costs of tuition, fees and books for up to $5,000 annually.

It’s a step in the right direction, said Diversity Scholarships and Grants Program Director Kristi Ryujin.

Eleven of the 20 students who received the scholarship in its first year wound up on the Dean’s List, and scholarship students consistently outperform nonscholarship students with similar ACT scores, Ryujin said.

“The institution overwhelmingly is happy they’re here…They bring a different view of what it’s like to be a student here,” she said.

Like the Utah Opportunity Scholarship, the Larry H. Miller Enrichment Scholarship gives 10 disadvantaged minority students the opportunity to attend the U who would otherwise be unable to afford higher education.

Miller-car mogul and owner of the Utah Jazz-“would like to see emerge from this program 10 students who will serve the community…He wants to even the playing field,” Dean of Students Stayner Landward said in an earlier interview.

Though minority enrollment numbers are on the rise in general, they haven’t been reflected at the U in all cases.

In 1977, 154 students of American Indian descent-or 0.7 percent of the student body-attended the U. Last year, American Indians comprised 0.6 percent of the student body.

According to the ACE report, college enrollment among American Indians has increased by 80 percent from 1980-1981 to 2000-2001.

Though the numbers show improvement overall, Ward said there’s still a lot more that can be done to continue to boost minority enrollment.

“We must redouble our efforts to improve the rates at which students of color enroll in postsecondary institutions, if minorities underrepresented in higher education are to achieve parity with their white counterparts,” he said.

[email protected]