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'Crisis' in Minority Enrollment Focus Of College Group

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The board of directors of the American Council on Education, an umbrella group representing most of the nation's colleges and universities, has agreed to issue a statement highlighting the "crisis'' in minority enrollment in colleges and a handbook to help administrators deal with it.

The board's action, taken this month, will help ensure that efforts to address the declining rate of minority participation in higher education receive high priority on campuses in the coming academic year, according to Reginald Wilson, director of the council's office of minority concerns.

"Given that the A.C.E.'s board is made up of college presidents, their leadership will give a signal to the member institutions,'' who enroll more than 70 percent of the country's college students, Mr. Wilson said.

Furthermore, he added, the council will recommend strategies to help colleges recruit and retain minority students.

"Too often, we say there is a national problem, but we don't say how to solve it,'' he said. "We will make a statement, but we are also providing a handbook to say, 'Here is how to solve it.'''

The 36-member board took the unusual step of devoting most of its meeting this month to a discussion of minority enrollment, which one member called "a vital part of our national survival.''

The issue has received increased attention in recent months, in part because of racial incidents at such institutions as the Citadel and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Mr. Wilson said.

The forthcoming statement will be followed by a "major statement'' on minority concerns at the council's annual meeting next January, he said.

The board also agreed to stress minority issues to the council's commission on national challenges in higher education, a panel of campus, business, and labor leaders appointed last year to study the federal role in higher education. The commission's report is expected to be issued this fall.

In a separate development related to minority enrollment, a team of researchers released findings this month showing that colleges and universities in the Philadelphia area are more segregated by race than they were in 1976, despite a federal court order requiring their desegregation.

The researchers said the number of black students enrolled in the area's 26 four-year institutions declined from 9,199 in 1976 to 8,936 in 1984, while white enrollment increased from 63,718 to 71,571 during that period. At the same time, they said, black 12th-grade enrollments in the area were increasing and white 12th-grade enrollments were decreasing.

The findings were part of a report prepared by the Metropolitan Opportunity Project at the University of Chicago, and were similar to those contained in the group's earlier report on higher-education enrollment in the Chicago area, according to Faith G. Paul, author of the new study.

The project, directed by Gary Orfield, a professor of political science at the University of Chicago, is examining changes in education, college graduation, job training, and employment in five metropolitan areas. (See Education Week, Jan. 28, 1987.)--R.R.

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