Minority Enrollment

Thursday, February 10, 2000

 

Report Notes a Slight Rise in Minority Enrollment and Graduation Rates

 

By NINA WILLDORF, Washington

 

The number of minority students attending college and earning degrees has risen slightly, according to a report released today

by the American Council on Education. However, because the most recent data are from the fall of 1996 to the fall of 1997,

they may not reflect enrollment changes that followed the recent rollbacks of affirmative-action policies in California and Texas.

 

Minority enrollment rose by 3.7 percent, to 3,771,000, from 1996 to 1997, the latest year for which data are available. That

increase is slightly higher than the 3.2-percent increase in minority enrollment that the A.C.E. recorded for 1995 and 1996. The number of bachelor's degrees awarded to minorities rose by 8.6 percent from 1996 to 1997. And the number of masters'

degrees awarded rose by 6.4 percent.

 

A.C.E.'s president, Stanley O. Ikenberry, said past efforts to raise minority enrollments were beginning to yield results. "The

new economy requires a higher level of education," he said, "and this reminds us of the importance of the crucial need for

access."

 

In a special section, the report makes a case for raising a minority presence in higher education. "Diverse work-groups have

proven to have higher levels of creativity, which translates into economic benefits," said Jeffrey F. Milem, an assistant professor

of education at the University of Maryland at College Park, who co-wrote the special section, "The Benefits of Racial and

Ethnic Diversity in Higher Education."

 

He and his co-author, Kenju Hakuta, an education professor at Stanford University, pointed to research that illustrates how the existence of a multicultural student population benefits students, colleges and society at large.

 

According to Mr. Hakuta, any contention that past racial inequalities have already been resolved is a myth perpetrated by

critics of affirmative action.

 

"While overt forms of racism have decreased, there are disturbing trends in more subtle forms," Mr. Hakuta said, in a news

conference here Wednesday.

 

The A.C.E. gathered its statistics from the Bureau of the Census and the Department of Education.