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Minorities Making Gains, But Still Underrepresented On College Campuses

June 9, 1996

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Minority student enrollment at U.S. colleges rose 5 percent in 1994 _ nearly double the increase of the previous year _ yet a new report says gaps still exist in higher education between students of color and their white peers.

The report, being released Monday by the American Council on Education, says about 23 percent of the nation’s high school graduates are black, Hispanic or American Indian, but they make up only 16 percent of the enrollment at four-year colleges.

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

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

_ Hispanics posted a 7 percent increase in enrollment _ the largest gain of four ethnic groups. Since 1990, the number of Hispanics enrolled in higher education has increased by 35 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 has 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 American Indians in higher education has risen by 24 percent.

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

``The cost of tuition isn’t helping,″ says Felix Brown, a black senior at Georgia State University in Atlanta. ``I think higher admission standards are a barrier. That’s not to say that (minority) students aren’t bright, but that the public school curriculum isn’t challenging enough to prepare them for the next level.″

Freeman Hrabowski III, president of the University of Maryland Baltimore County, said he’s concerned that blacks tend to go to two-year, instead of four-year institutions, and some don’t get the two-year degrees.

``Has it been the trend for minorities to go on to four-year institutions? No. That hasn’t been the case,″ Hrabowski said. ``We’ve been making progress because of affirmative action, but the gap is still wide and the question becomes what will happen to future students if we abandon affirmative action?″

Edward Foote II, president of the University of Miami where minorities make up 49 percent of the enrollment, says he thinks economics, not discrimination, are 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.″

He 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 prospective minority students.

The report 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 was 57 percent in 1994, down from 61 percent in 1993.

_ In 1994, an estimated 67.6 percent of white high school graduates had completed one year of college, were enrolled or graduated from college by the time they were 24 years old. This compares with a 59 percent rate for blacks and 54 percent rate for Hispanics.

_ Minority students recorded a 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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