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Minorities Gaining, But Still Underrepresented at Colleges

June 10, 1996

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Students from minority backgrounds are enrolling at American colleges and universities in greater numbers, but their proportion on campus still trails that of whites, a higher education group reported today.

Minority student enrollment rose 5 percent in 1994 _ nearly double the increase of the previous year, said the American Council on Education, an association of colleges and universities.

Between 1990 and 1994, the number of minority students enrolled in colleges and universities rose by 26 percent, the group said in its 14th annual report.

Still, while an estimated 23 percent of the nation’s high school graduates are black, Hispanic or American Indian, they make up only 16 percent of the enrollment at four-year institutions.

Edward Foote II, president of the University of Miami, where minorities make up 49 percent of the enrollment, said he thinks economics rather than widespread discrimination is to blame for lagging minority enrollments.

``At this stage in American history, I do not think it reflects outright discrimination,″ Foote said. ``I think it reflects the economic reality that minority students tend to be less well off.″

Foote said affirmative actions programs should be defended against court challenges and universities need to recognize and embrace the needs and limited resources of increasing numbers of minority prospective students.

Ayanna Kelley, a sophomore at the University of Houston-Downtown, said if more black students were confident that they could earn a college degree, more would enroll. There is a stigma that black people cannot do anything well, or on time, and that mentality is instilled in young blacks, she said.

``It has a big effect. I talk to a lot of young people. They’ve been put down so much. They think they can only go to junior college or beauty school or truck driving school,″ said Ms. Kelley.

According to the report, minority students have made steady advancements in college enrollment since the mid-1980s. Between 1993 and 1994, they achieved small to moderate gains in college enrollment.

Some details:

_For the fourth consecutive year, blacks’ enrollment gain of 2.5 percent in 1994 was the smallest of the four ethnic groups surveyed. But since 1990, the number of blacks enrolled in colleges and universities increased by 16 percent.

_Asian-American enrollment in 1994 rose by nearly 7 percent. Since 1990, these students have posted an enrollment gain of 35 percent. The number of Asian-Americans at colleges and universities nearly doubled since 1984 from 390,000 to 774,000.

_American Indians and Alaska natives posted a 5 percent gain in enrollment. Since 1990, the number of Indians in higher education has risen by 24 percent.

_Hispanics posted a 7 percent increase in enrollment _ the largest gain of the four ethnic groups. Since 1990, the number of Hispanics enrolled in higher education has increased by 35 percent.

``What are the barriers? My parents came over to this country and they didn’t have much money,″ said Lino Carreras, a student at Miami-Dade Community College in Florida. ``Most of us have to work and go to school. From as early as junior high, most of us have worked.″

Patricia Burgh, assistant provost for enrollment management at Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J., says finances are a special problem for minority students, who sometimes never inquire about college because they’re convinced they could never afford it.

But minority students also often come from poorer-quality schools that lack the right books or computers, making them ill-prepared for college work, she said.

The study also found that:

_An estimated 83 percent of whites ages 18 to 24 had a high school diploma in 1994. The high school completion rate for blacks was 77 percent, up from 75 percent the year before. The rate for Hispanics _ who can be of any race _ was 57 percent in 1994, down from 61 percent in 1993.

_Minority students recorded an 8.6 percent increase in the number of associate degrees earned in 1993 _ the most recent data available. They earned 9.3 percent more bachelor’s degrees, 10.4 percent more master’s degrees and 13.9 percent more first-professional degrees in areas such as dentistry, law and medicine.

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