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University of Missouri officials still push for diversity

January 9, 2018

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The University of Missouri’s Columbia campus still has a ways to go in hiring diverse faculty despite recent improvement, university officials said.

System President Mun Choi and University of Missouri Chancellor Alexander Cartwright spoke Monday at a hearing of the Missouri House Special Committee on Urban Issues. Choi and Cartwright said the university had its best year in recent history of hiring diverse faculty, but still hasn’t reached its goal of having 10 percent of faculty come from underrepresented minority groups, the Columbia Missourian reported.

Choi said the university hired 17 African-American and Hispanic faculty members last year, which made up about a third of the total hiring pool. He called it “by far the best year Mizzou has had in terms of diversity hiring in the recent past.”

Choi said the school’s faculty is currently 3.7 percent African-American and 4.5 percent Hispanic, so there’s still work to be done.

“Part of student success is making sure we can teach from different backgrounds,” Cartwright said.

The university also has goals or raising the freshman retention rate from 87 percent to 93 percent, as well as raising the four-year graduation rate from 47 percent to 53 percent. Cartwright said the university’s decision to pay the full tuition of all students eligible for Pell Grants is a step in the right direction.

“I’m a big believer that you want to lower barriers for people to be successful,” Cartwright said. “So if we can make it easier so that some of those students don’t have to work so many hours, do something a little different to help and advance their completion rates, that’s something we want to do.”

Paying the tuition is nice but seems like a public relations-driven decision connected to the enrollment drop in minority students after protests in 2015 regarding race on campus, said Democratic Rep. Courtney Allen, who chairs the committee.

Choi said the university saw a 35 percent increase in minority students’ applications from the year before.

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Information from: Columbia Missourian, http://www.columbiamissourian.com

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