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Higher-Education Boards Focus On Minority-Enrollment Drop

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Boards of higher education in three states have turned their attention in the past month to the problem of declining minority enrollments in public colleges and universities.

In Connecticut, a plan was unanimously approved last month by the Board of Governors of Higher Education to bring rates of "access and retention of minority students up to those of majority students," according to Peter M. Rosa, director of educational opportunity for the Connecticut Department of Higher Education.

Blacks represent 8.8 percent of seniors at public high schools in the state, Mr. Rosa said. Under the newly adopted plan, if an institution that draws from a statewide pool of students has a black enrollment of less than 8.8 percent, it would be required over five years to cut the discrepancy by at least half.

Community and technical colleges that draw students from a regional market will be required to bring minority enrollments into greater alignment with the high-school graduation rate for minorities in the region.

Under the plan, the state will work to bolster the number of minority faculty members, administrators, and other higher-education institution employees; increase minority enrollments in law, medicine, and dentistry programs; and improve minority recruitment and college-awareness programs operated in conjunction with public schools, beginning as early as the 7th grade.

In New Jersey, the state Board of Higher Education released a report indicating that undergraduate enrollment of black students in the state's public institutions decreased by about 8 percent between 1983 and 1984, while total undergraduate enrollment declined by 5 percent.

The number of black freshmen dropped by 14 percent, while total freshman enrollment decreased by 8 percent, according to the report.

To help reverse the decline, Gov. Thomas Kean has asked for additional appropriations to launch a campaign to bring more black students into higher education.

His concern, aides said, was prompted by an earlier report to the board indicating that the number of blacks enrolled as freshmen at all New Jersey higher-education institutions had dropped by 9 percent from 1980 to 1983.

The state also experienced an 8.8 percent drop--from 18,320 to 16,698--in the number of black undergraduates enrolled full time over the three-year period.

By contrast, the number of Hispanic students enrolled as freshmen at state higher-education institutions increased by 18 percent from 1980 to 1983. Full-time undergraduate enrollment of Hispanics was also up--by about 20 percent--during the three-year period, according to the earlier report.

But the new report indicates that between 1983 and 1984, enrollment growth slowed considerably for Hispanic students, with the number of Hispanic freshmen increasing by only 1 percent and total Hispanic undergraduate enrollment up by only 2 percent.

In Oregon, a new report to the state Board of Higher Education puts the number of minority college students in the state at 4,086, or 7.4 percent of the 54,002 students in public higher-education institutions. That figure is above the proportion of minorities in the state's population (6.7 percent) but below the percentage of minorities in the state's 18-24 age group (8.4 percent), according to the report.

The study found that black enrollments have dropped by 8.6 percent during the past two years and that the number of blacks earning bachelor's degrees declined by 4.8 percent between 1978 and 1984. The state also recorded a 14.3 percent drop in the number of American Indian, Hispanic, and black students enrolled in graduate programs between 1982 and 1984, according to the report.

Campus Protests

In related developments:

Student demonstrations erupted on dozens of campuses across the country last month, from Columbia University to the University of California at Berkeley--most of them reportedly over institutional investments in South Africa and recruiting on campus by the Central Intelligence Agency.

But minority students at Brown University, dissatisfied with the university's "non-negotiable" response to their demands for improvements in race relations on campus, staged a sit-in in a university library late last month.

The protest, which lasted two hours, concluded when officials agreed to a series of demands, ending a month of racial protests on the campus. (See Education Week, April 17, 1985.)

The black students had presented the administration on April 6 with a six-page list of demands that called for increases in the number of minority faculty members and students on campus, expanded offerings at the Third World Center, broader curricula relating to the needs of minority students, and increased financial aid and support services for those students.

A week later, the university released a 13-page response, but the students said it was not satisfactory. Some 50 students then occupied the library, while up to 150 others stood outside in support of the protesting students.

The sit-in ended when university administrators agreed to establish task forces to study the possible rebuilding and reorganization of the Third World Center, examine campus-security issues, and establish a blue-ribbon panel made up of outside experts to study the quality of minority life on campus. The panel, to be selected by administrators and minority students, is scheduled to report by the end of the fall semester.

In return, the students agreed to refrain from public protests.

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