Gaining ground

Between 1993 and 2003 minority enrollment at colleges and universities nationwide has increased more than 50 percent to 4.7 million students, according to the Minorities in Higher Education 22nd Annual Status Report (2006).

The report, released by the American Council on Education last Monday, concluded that students of color make up 27.8 percent of the 17 million students enrolled in college nationwide, up slightly from 21.8 percent in 1993. They still trail their white counterparts, however, in the rate at which they enroll in college.

Nearly half of white high school graduates attend college compared to 41 percent of African Americans, and 35 percent of Hispanics.

The shrinking gap between white and minority enrollment in higher education assumes that significant advancements within minority communities have been made, but white enrollment has actually declined.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Education’s Center for Education Statistics, 500,000 fewer white students enrolled in college in 2001 than in 1991. Minority enrollment increased by 1.5 million during that period.

Hispanics saw the biggest gains in college enrollment of any minority group, up by 68.8 percent to more than 1.6 million students. African American college enrollment increased by 42.7 percent, and they now represent almost 2 million college students nationwide. Asian American enrollment rose by 43.5 percent and American Indian by 38.7 percent.

A consistent finding in the report noted that regardless of race, the gender gap in college enrollment continues. Female students have a higher enrollment rate than their male peers.
St. John’s in particular saw some slight increases in minority enrollment. According to the Office of Institutional Research, 2,704 more minorities enrolled at St. John’s in the past 10 years, approximately a 32 percent increase. One thousand fewer white students enrolled in 2006 than 1997.

“I’ve been able to slightly notice the increase in minority enrollment here at St. John’s,” said graduate student Louis Saaverdra. “But the main increase regarding minorities here on campus has been leadership. There are a lot of minority leaders doing great things for organizations on campus.”

Senior Vice President for Enrollment, Marketing and Communications for the University Brenda Majeski explained the importance of recruiting a diverse student body to St. John’s.

“When St. John’s University thinks about diversity – it’s in the most broad sense – gender, religion, ethnicity, economic status — no one variable carries the day,” she said.

“Ethnically, we have historically, and continue to, try to mirror the NYC landscape, so we are in large part an extension of our immediate community,” she continued. “This pattern extends into our national and international recruitment. Our diversity attracts diversity.”

Asians at St. John’s saw the largest increase of any minority group over the past 10 years, rising more than 80 percent to 2,788 students. African Americans saw the next largest increase, now accounting for 2,528 students, and Hispanic enrollment increased 23 percent to 2,475 students.

Enrollment for students of an unknown race rose less than 10 percent to 2,242, and American Indian enrollment declined almost 40 percent to just 32 students. The majority group on campus is white students, which accounts for just over 9,000 students, but they make up less than half of St. John’s student body.

St. John’s prides itself on its varied student body, and the assortment of cultures on campus is a major factor students consider when applying to college.

“Diversity on college campuses teaches students about other cultures and ethnicities, and offers everyone different perspectives of life,” Saaverdra said. “Being so diverse, St. John’s really gets its students ready for the real world.”