UI lagging in minority grads

By Matthew Richardson

A report released by the Education Trust, a research organization, that studied minority enrollment at the Nation’s 50 flagship universities, gave the University’s minority graduation rate a C.

Considering underrepresented minorities such as African-Americans and Native Americans, the report gave eight universities failing grades. Twenty-four state universities received D’s, 14 states were given C’s, and four schools – the University of Hawaii, University of New Mexico, University of New Hampshire, and University of Vermont – received B’s. No school received an A.

According to The Education Trust’s press release, “The report illustrates how flagships have reallocated financial aid resources away from the low-income students who need help to go to college mostly to compete for high-income students that would enroll in college regardless of the amount of aid they receive.”

However, the University takes issue with that claim.

“Graduation rates are very important to us,” said Robin Kaler, associate chancellor of public affairs for the University. “The reason we accept students into the University is that we believe they can graduate.”

University staff also do not agree with the way that the study was conducted.

Bad methodology, Kaler said, rewarded states with low minority populations, and punished states with high minority populations. That’s why states like Vermont and New Hampshire, where minorities comprise only four percent, did well, as opposed to Illinois, which has a 12 percent minority population, Kaler said.

The University has two notable programs dedicated to maintaining a diverse campus. The younger of the two, the Illinois Promise Program, guarantees that students whose families are under the poverty level, graduate from the college without any debt.

“There’s a nice cross-section of diversity served by the program,” said Dan Mann, director of the Office of Financial Aid for the University.

The second, the President’s Award Program, is given to students who are part of traditionally underrepresented minority groups on campus.

“We feel that it’s important to have students that reflect the face of society,” Kaler said.

Aside from barriers to a minority student’s graduation, there are still other barriers to their decision to matriculate at the University.

“I did hear that the U of I was very cliquish, that people of different races stuck together,” said Kesha Butler, freshman in LAS.

Unfortunately, coming here did not change that preconception.

“I’d say it’s a pretty segregated campus,” said Butler. “I mean, PAR, and FAR, that’s where all the blacks and Hispanics live, and there’s small groups of minorities everywhere else.”

However, Butler said she felt that the University did actively recruit her.

“You could tell there was an effort from the Minority Affairs Office,” Butler said.

This report comes at a divisive time in college admissions. The state of Michigan recently amended their constitution to disallow public agencies and institutions from operating affirmative action programs that give individuals preference based on race, color, national origin or gender. This decision effectively nullifies Michigan’s affirmative action policy, which was a huge factor in their college admissions process.

Moreover, the measure passed with 58 percent of the vote, such a majority that it has steeled supporters into believing that there’s a good chance that similar measures would pass in other states.

However, Kaler guarantees that the decision will have no direct effect on the University.

“The decision was a vote at the state level. It has no impact on Illinois,” Kaler said.