Minority numbers increase at KSU

By Julie Pavelich Record-Courier staff writer Published:

While more minorities continue to attend college nationally, the amount of the increase from year to year has dropped, according to a recent study by the American Council on Education.

The 15th annual Status Report on Minorities in Higher Education found minorities are making progress in higher education, but continue to lag behind white students in the rate at which they enroll in college.

The study also found most minority students who enroll do graduate, and more colleges and universities are hiring minority faculty members.

Enrollment of minorities increased nationally by 2.9 percent between 1994 and 1995, the most recent year data was available.

At KSU, 22 more African American students enrolled in fall 1996 than in fall 1995, bringing the number to 1,401, according to Charles Rickard, associate vice president for enrollment services. The number of Hispanic students climbed from 175 to 193 during that time, while KSU's Native American student population rose from 44 to 55. Enrollment figures for fall 1997 won't be released until mid-September, but Rickard said the numbers are climbing and following the national trend.

"For Kent State and the future of education, the student population is increasingly more diverse," he said. "As the university looks toward the year 2010, changing demographics will affect our planning efforts. More students will be older, have a greater dependency on financial aid and scholarship, and more minorities will be on college campuses."

The Office of Enrollment and Student Affairs works with other KSU departments, including the Office of Cultural Diversity, to recruit and assist minority students.

Kupita/Transiciones, a week of pre-orientation activities, and Academic Stars, for gifted freshmen, are two of the cultural diversity office's programs designed to attract and retain students, said Shana Lee, assistant to the director.

"We work with several departments and offices in a joint effort to recruit academically talented minority students," she said. "Then we have programs that help with retention (because it) is something we really strive for."

While Lee said she has seen minority enrollment increase, she acknowledged it and retention are not as high as they could be.

"I think our problem is that we can bring students here, but things have not been put in place, in terms of financial aid, to keep them here," Lee said. "Financial aid is a big reason we lose them."

"Students also opt to stay close to home for financial reasons and go to schools like Cleveland State," she said. "But we are recruiting for our Oscar Ritchie Scholarships and host yield receptions in cities throughout the state, which has helped."

KSU had a 71-percent retention rate for full-time, first-year minority students from fall 1994 to fall 1995, while Akron U wasn't far behind at 66 percent, according to a fall 1996 retention study by the Ohio Inter-University Council.

In fall 1992, 3,217 minority students attended Akron U. That number dropped to 3,201 in fall 1994 and climbed to 3,449 last fall, according to Akron U's Office of the Registrar.

Although medical schools nationally are experiencing a decline in enrollment of under-represented minority students, the Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine in Rootstown continues to attract and retain African American, Native American, Latino, Mexican American and Puerto Rican students.

"We are bucking the trend in medical education. Nationally, medical colleges are seeing a decline in the number of under-represented minority students in the last two or three years, while here at NEOUCOM our enrollment is increasing by 7 percent," said Ken Durgans, assistant to the president for minority affairs and affirmative action. "Next year, we project we will be in double digits."

A team recruitment effort by NEOUCOM's admissions and minority affairs offices, as well as the consortium colleges and the National Medical Association Akron Chapter have contributed to the increase in minority enrollment, he said.

As the number of minority students enrolled in college is increasing, more colleges and universities also are hiring full-time faculty of color.

Of the 37 new faculty members hired at Kent State University's eight campuses during the 1996-97 academic year, 22 were women and eight were from under-represented populations, said KSU Provost Myron Henry. During the 1995-96 academic year, 52 new faculty were hired, including 26 women and five people from under-represented populations.

Because of the number of faculty members who retired this year as part of KSU's early retirement incentive, he said he expects the number of female and minority hires to increase further.

Twenty-nine of 45 vacant positions in the College of Arts and Sciences have been filled already and of that 16 women and six minorities have been hired, according to Dean Joseph Danks.

"These two sets of figures show that the trends are very clear ... these numbers are more robust than we've been accustomed to, especially with women, and we are encouraged by that," Henry said. "It is also good to see there is an increasing number of (minority) individuals receiving their doctorate degrees, We certainly encourage applications from a diverse population of potential candidates.

"We don't have quotas, but make sure our final applicant pools are richly diverse ... and then we go with the best candidate," he said.

Nationally, the number of minority faculty members increased by 43.7 percent during a 10-year period, compared with 6.4 percent for whites, according to the American Council on Education. However, they still only account for 12.2 percent of full-time faculty at U.S. colleges and universities.

"That 43.7 percent is a very important statistic because it says that over time the composite statistics will look more like the United States as a whole," he said. "As the demographics nationally continue to change and minorities will make up more of the U.S. population, the (professorial) demographics will ultimately follow the trend also."

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