UI makes plans to increase minority student enrollment

By Se Young Lee

University officials are making minority enrollment a top priority after the release of reports showing a substantial decrease in the minority population on campus.

According to the preliminary 10-day enrollment report for fall 2004 compiled by the Office of Admissions and Records, undergraduate enrollment increased 2 percent, from 28,623 undergraduates in fall semester of 2003 to 29,294 enrolled this semester. However, the number of identified minority students has decreased from 7,662 to 7,006, an 8 percent drop.

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“Certainly we are very concerned about minority enrollment,” said Ruth Watkins, the assistant provost of the Office of Provost and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs. “Increased enrollment of students of color is a key goal.”

The University is initiating a “multifaceted strategy to more effectively reach the students of color,” Watkins said.

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    Stanley Henderson, the University’s assistant provost for enrollment management, said the University is intensifying its recruiting efforts by personalizing the process. He said there will be more calls from current students and alumni to prospective minority students, as well as providing visiting students more opportunities to interact with current students and faculty. OAR is also increasing dialogue with the cultural centers on campus and individual colleges to develop “greater coordination and focus” in the recruitment process, he said.

    “We believe we should be recruiting families and not just students,” Henderson said. “(This) is one of the cornerstones of recruiting. (It is important) to assure them their son or daughter is going to have a positive experience at the University.”

    Michael Jeffries, director of University’s Office of Minority Student Affairs, said the results caught the office off guard.

    He said the University has been using a variety of programs to try to recruit minority students. OMSA, in conjunction with OAR’s recruitment programs, has sent representatives to speak to minority students and also is planning outreach programs.

    One of the most striking statistics is the drop in the number of African-American students. There are only 1,936 undergraduate students enrolled this year who have identified themselves as African American, as opposed to 2,147 students last year. This decrease is particularly accentuated in the freshman profile report for this fall compiled by OAR. While freshmen enrollment increased from 6,801 in fall 2003 to 7,248 this semester – making the class of 2008 the largest class in the University’s history – only 410 students in the class of 2008 have identified themselves as African-American students. This a significant drop from the class of 2007, of which 602 of its members identified as African American.

    Henderson said the competition for minority students with strong records has increased nationally, which contributed to the decline.

    “Because diversity is important, students of color with strong records are in high demand,” Henderson said. “In few cases, we found that students who have already been to orientation were still being contacted by other colleges.”

    Jeffries said he remained confident that the University could provide an optimal environment for minority students.

    “It’s a wonderful place for students of any background,” he said.

    Henderson said the University will do everything in its power to preserve ethnic diversity on campus.

    “This decline is something we absolutely cannot allow to continue … because diversity is part of the excellence provided by the University,” Henderson said.