ERIC Identifier: ED333856
Publication Date: 1991-07-00
Author: Astone, Barbara - Nunez-Wormack, Elsa
Source: Association for the Study of Higher Education.| ERIC
Clearinghouse on Higher Education Washington DC.| George Washington Univ.
Washington DC. School of Education and Human Development.
Pursuing Diversity: Recruiting College Minority Students.
Present and future trends in population growth and in participation
in higher education reveal that people of color in the United States are
a dramatically increasing but seriously undereducated segment of society.
By 2000, minorities will account for roughly 30 percent of the population
(U.S. Bureau of the Census 1990c). Even now, 27 percent of all public school
students in the 24 largest city school systems are minorities (Hodgkinson
1986). Yet for nearly all minority groups, high school graduation rates
are significantly lower than for the majority, and entry rates of college-age
minorities into higher education are actually shrinking.
Government and industry alike have noted the potential economic effect
of these alarming trends in education. With the projected increases in
the minority population, the situation threatens to affect the national
economy: Given the present level of minority education, the potential shortage
of qualified workers equipped to meet the needs of the market is a serious
concern (Economist 1990b; Hodgkinson 1983). Institutions of higher education
are being called upon to exercise leadership in helping to address these
problems before they take on even more critical proportions. The recruitment
of minority students must therefore not only focus on more aggressive strategies
to recruit those students who are already well prepared but also encompass
long-term initiatives to improve existing educational conditions.
WHAT IS THE INSTITUTION'S ROLE IN RECRUITING FOR DIVERSITY?
Higher education institutions are the traditional centers for scholarly
debate, research, innovation, and change in social matters. Increasing
the presence of minorities and of minority perspectives in all aspects
of the college and university is, in its broadest sense, a question of
social change. Universities can provide vision, energy, leadership, and
direction to other institutions, from school systems to government to business
and industry, first to establish firmly the goal of excellence in minority
education and then to pursue and achieve it (American Council on Education
1988). Through investigation into the subject of minority education and
the effectiveness of responses at various levels, higher education institutions
can bring the issue into focus. But beyond the social role, colleges and
universities need to determine the ways in which diversity will be incorporated
locally by identifying what the problems are with regard to their own institution.
Are minority enrollments and graduation rates low and, if so, why? Do minority
students feel welcome and are they part of the college community? Colleges
need to evaluate their mission, objectives and policies, and the allocation
of resources with minority education in mind.
HOW ARE MINORITY GROUPS DISTINCT--FROM EACH OTHER AND FROM THE MAJORITY?
Because they share many common concerns, people of color are frequently
referred to as a single group. In fact, however, this population of African-Americans,
Hispanics, Asian-Americans, and American Indians consists of an enormous
variety of people from different racial, ethnic, language, and cultural
backgrounds. As a group, clear distinctions--social, economic, and educational--can
be made between minorities and the majority. Additionally, the obstacles
they encounter include some that are not part of the experience of most
majority students, even those who are disadvantaged. Limited proficiency
in English and racial and ethnic prejudice are two examples.
With regard to higher education, however, the nature of the problems
in each minority community is somewhat different, and each situation calls
for solutions that are informed and responsive to the needs of each community.
Preparation for college, language proficiency, immigrant or nonimmigrant
(or refugee) status, time in the United States, gender, cultural influences,
and financial condition are only some of the factors that vary from group
to group and could have more or less significance in a particular minority
group's educational profile. Recognizing and understanding the differences
within and among the various minority populations are an important preface
to the larger goal of achieving cultural diversity in higher education.
HOW IS THE RECRUITMENT OF MINORITY STUDENTS RELATED TO OTHER INSTITUTIONAL
Because the ultimate goal in recruiting minority students must be graduation,
recruitment is not an objective that can be pursued in isolation. The better
integrated it is with the college's educational programs and services,
the more opportunity it will have for success. Admissions and financial
aid policies, strategies for retention, and opportunities for transfer
are some of the areas intricately tied to recruitment that therefore can
share common objectives (Carnegie Foundation 1989; Lenning, Beal, and Sauer
1980). Organizing strategies for recruitment that combine the human and
financial resources of all these areas can be cost-effective. Above all,
however, it will disseminate minority recruitment throughout the institution.
Effective recruitment of minority students should not only be coordinated
with many different areas of the institution but also enlist the participation
of people from different departments and at various levels of responsibility
to work in concert as part of a comprehensive plan. Nontraditional models
of recruitment teams can have significant success. Administrators, faculty,
and staff from academic departments, including ethnic studies programs
and centers, student services, and special program offices, such as economic
opportunity programs, can be organized to participate in the institution's
strategy for recruitment.
WHO SHOULD RECRUIT, WHEN, WHERE, AND HOW?
Even when a formal structure for recruiting minority students exists,
the function is commonly located in one of several different areas within
a college's organizational structure. The recruitment of minorities can
be administered through the regular operations of the admissions office,
by a specially appointed officer, or through a variety of other possibilities.
Rather than the location of the office, however, it is the institution's
commitment to improving the education of minorities that will ultimately
endow recruitment with its potential to be effective (Christoffel 1986).
In this sense, the leadership and involvement of top administrators are
Ideally an institutionwide effort conceived as a process rather than
a program, recruitment of minority students would optimally engage all
constituencies of the college--faculty, administrators, staff, and students--in
a well-developed and deliberate plan designed to achieve specific, reasonable
goals. The plan should be based on a comprehensive institutional audit
reflecting the profile and present educational situation of minorities
at the institution. It should be cooperatively designed, including the
perspectives of those who will implement it, and should delineate the methods
and resources designed to achieve its objectives within a stated time.
Finally, it should be monitored, evaluated, and periodically modified to
reflect changing conditions and to capitalize on aspects that emerge as
being particularly successful.
American Council on Education and Education Commission of the States.
1988. "One-Third of a Nation. A Report of the Commission on Minority Participation
in Education and American Life." Washington, D.C.: Author.
Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. 1989. "Tribal Colleges:
Shaping the Future of Native America." Princeton, N.J.: Princeton Univ.
Christoffel, Pamela. 1986. "Minority Student Access and Retention: A
Research and Development Update." New York: College Entrance Examination
Board. ED 279 217. 10 pp. MF-01; PC-01.
Economist. 3 March 1990. "Black Americans" 314(7644): 17-19.
Hodgkinson, Harold L. 1983. Guess Who's Coming to College: Your Students
in 1990." Washington, D.C.: National Institute of Independent Colleges
and Universities. ED 234 882. 4 pp. MF-01; PC-01.
------, ed. 1986. "Higher Education; Diversity Is Our Middle Name."
Washington, D.C.: National Institute of Independent Colleges and Universities.
Lenning, Oscar T., Philip E. Beal, and Ken Sauer. 1980. "Retention and
Attrition: Evidence for Action and Research." ED 192 661. 134 pp. MF-01;
U.S. Bureau of the Census. September 1990. "Money, Income, and Poverty
Status in the United States--1989." Current Population Reports, Series
P-60, No. 168. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office.
This ERIC digest is based on a new full-length report in the ASHE-ERIC
Higher Education Report series, prepared by the ERIC Clearinghouse on Higher
Education in cooperation with the Association for the Study of Higher Education,
and published by the School of Education at the George Washington University.