Minority Access An ‘Unsolved Problem’ on Campuses, Study Says

By Robert Rothman — September 17, 1986 4 min read

Despite increasing national concern over the decline in college-going rates among minorities, they continue to be underrepresented in higher education, according to a new report by the American Council on Education.

Citing a number of new state and college initiatives aimed at minorities, the A.C.E.'S fifth annual status report of minorities in higher education says that problems of access and retention remain, nonetheless, “unsolved and unaddressed in most states.”

Minorities constitute 21.3 percent of the U.S. population-a proportion that is growing-but represent only 17 percent of the total enrollment in higher education, according to the report, to be released next month at the group’s annual meeting.

Moreover, the report notes, the situation is worsening for blacks. Black enrollment declined between 1980 and 1984, the report notes, while Hispanic and Asian enrollments increased.

This year’s report indicates that trends identified in past years have continued, said Reginald Wilson, director of the A.C.E.'S office of minority concerns.

But, he added, the adoption by more states of effective recruitment and retention policies could change the trends. “If you are really committed to doing something, we do have examples of things that are working,” Mr. Wilson said, citing New Jersey and Wisconsin, which have mandated increased minority enrollment at all state institutions.

Enrollment Trends

According to the report, overall enrollment at public institutions remained stable between 1980 and 1984 and increased by 5.4 percent at private institutions.

During the same period, however, overall black enrollment fell by 3.3 percent, including a 3.2 percent drop at two-year colleges. In six states Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Minnesota, Oklahoma, and Texas-black enrollment at two- and four-year colleges increased; in 16 state, black enrollment declined in both two and four-year colleges.

As in previous reports, the 1986 status report noted several factors that may have contributed to the overall decline: the rising co t of a college education, reductions in financial aid and the inability of minority families to meet college expenses, and the inadequate preparation for postsecondary education many minority students receive.

Stiffer Requirements

According to a separate study still under way, stiffer college-admission requirements--cited by some educators as a barrier for minority students-- has not contributed significantly to the enrollment decline.

“The findings seem to indicate that there does not appear to be a direct correlation between the new requirements and minority access,” said Stephen H. Adolphus, director of the College Admission Practices Project, a national project paid for by the Ford Foundation.

Many minority students meet the tougher admission requirements, which half the states have implemented or announced they will implement, he noted. However, he added that the rhetoric accompanying higher standards may make some minority students feel “less welcome.”

Moreover, Mr. Adolphus said, many states that have imposed new requirements have also “put in alternative pathways,” such as special admissions programs and remediation, to maintain access for minorities.

State Programs

According to the A.C.E. report, five states have modified admissions policies for minorities who do not meet admissions standards, and 11 states have or have recommended programs for strengthening math, science, and English skills for minority high-school students.

In addition, the report noted, several states have in place special recruitment programs for minorities, such as high·school and junior high-school outreach programs, special training and coordination with high-school counselors, and orientation sessions on financial aid.

Several individual colleges also have programs for increasing minority enrollments on their campuses, according to the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. Some examples include:

  • Cleveland State University, which has offered $25,000 in grants to faculty members and students who submit innovative plans to attract minority students to campus.

  • Jersey City State College, which has created an “ambassador program,” in which 700 students from area school districts are invited to visit the campus and talk with students and faculty.
  • The University of Wisconsin, which will set up a center at its Milwaukee campus to tell minority students about higher education and how to prepare for it.
  • In addition, several private colleges have also established programs for increasing minority enrollment.

    Hood College, a small private women’s college in Maryland, raised its black enrollment from 15 to 52 in two years, according to Antoinette Bowie, an admissions counselor for minorities, primarily through an “adopt-a-student” program that matches black students with local families.

    But the most successful programs involve statewide policies similar to those adopted in New Jersey and Wisconsin, according to Mr. Wilson.

    “There are some good things going on at individual institutions,” he said. “But where you make a significant change in numbers is where you do a statewide effort.”

    A version of this article appeared in the September 17, 1986 edition of Education Week as Minority Access An ‘Unsolved Problem’ on Campuses, Study Says