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Independent Schools Report Sharp Gains in Minority Enrollment

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A dramatic increase in the number of Asian-American students enrolling in the nation's independent schools in the past four years has bolstered their overall minority enrollment, despite the fact that the proportions of black, Hispanic, and Native American students enrolled have increased only slightly, according to a new report.

The report, "Minorities in Independent Schools: Enrollment Trends and Financial Aid 1980-81--1983-84," was prepared by the National Association of Independent Schools from information provided by 768 member schools in the fall of 1983. Of those schools, the 643 that reported in both 1983-84 and 1980-81 were used to establish trends.

Minority Enrollment Up

The number of minority students enrolled in nais member schools increased by 13.1 percent between the 1980-81 and 1983-84 survey, while total enrollment in these schools increased only 3.2 percent, the report notes.

In the fall of 1983, minority enrollment in the 768 reporting schools was 28,263, or 9.2 percent of the 306,589 total student population, up from 8.4 percent in the 1980-81 survey.

Most of that increase came, the report indicates, from the rise in Asian-American enrollment, which increased at about 12 times the rate of general enrollment and 40 times that of blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans over the three years studied, the survey found.

During the same period, black enrollment rose 1.3 percent; Native-American enrollment rose 1.4 percent and Hispanic enrollment rose 0.4 percent.

By 1983, 39.4 percent of enrolled minorities were Asian, compared with 32.8 percent reported in the 1980 survey. Overall, the association reports, blacks now constitute 4 percent of total independent-school enrollments, Asian Americans now constitute 3.6 percent, Hispanic students 1.5 percent, and Native Americans 0.1 percent.

'A Natural Option'

"Asian families come to our schools as a natural option," said Wanda Speede-Franklin, director of the offices of information services and minority affairs at n.a.i.s "They are attracted without any special recruitment efforts."

Many of the independent schools are located near universities and attract Asian-American students whose parents work in education, Ms. Speede-Franklin said.

Because of the rapid growth of the Asian-American student population, black, Hispanic, and Native-American enrollments showed a proportional decline as percentages of overall minority enrollment, according to the report. Black enrollment fell from 48.6 percent of the total minority enrollment in 1980 to 43.5 percent by 1983; Hispanic enrollment fell from 17.6 percent to 15.6 percent; and Native-American enrollment slipped from 1.6 percent to 1.5 percent.

Only 6.8 percent of the independent schools surveyed reported that more than 20 percent of their enrollments were minority. Some 63 percent reported that between 1 percent and 9 percent of their students were members of minority groups. More than half of the minority students are enrolled in 17 percent of the reporting schools, the report notes. These schools also encompass 31 percent of the total enrollment of nais member schools, according to the report.

Financial Aid

As part of the 1983 survey, the nais also collected financial-aid statistics. The association had collected similar data in 1969-70, and while the 1983 statistics are not directly comparable, several comparisons were drawn in the report.

Key Finding

A key financial-aid finding was that a smaller percentage of the minority students enrolled in independent schools in 1983 received financial aid than was true in such schools in 1969; a larger percentage of minority students are now paying full tuition, according to the report.

In 1983, 15 percent of all students enrolled in the schools surveyed received some form of financial aid, compared with 9.5 percent 14 years earlier; minorities represented about 20 percent of the aided students in both studies.

The 1983 survey showed that about one-third of all minority students received financial aid, but in the earlier study more than half had received aid.

Between 1969 and 1983, the proportion of minority students paying full tuition increased from roughly one-half to two-thirds, according to the report.

"This fact runs contrary to the popular assumption that minority students would not attend independent schools without heavy financial support," the report says.

According to Ms. Speede-Frank-lin, a larger percentage of minority students pay full tuition now because independent schools have "aggressively sought out" students from middle-income minority families that can afford to pay tuition, and these families have been "exploring wider educational options" than in the past.

Minority Teachers

A minority recruitment program is underway to bring more minority teachers to the independent schools, Ms. Speede-Franklin said. But she added that "it's hard to measure the success of this program at this point, when less than 3 percent of our teachers are minorities."

In the 768 schools reporting to the association in 1983, minority teachers made up 2.8 percent of the total teaching force. Almost half of the schools reported no minority teachers in their classrooms.

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