Back To School

College enrollment for African Americans holding steady

August and September are back-to-school months, and though the overall percentage of students (black, white, Hispanic, etc.) ages 18 — 24 entering college decreased in 2000 to 35.5% from 35.6% in 1999, a U.S. Census Bureau report issued in June 2001 states that college enrollment for African Americans increased 0.1% from 30.4% in 1999 to 30.5% in 2000.

According to the study, Hispanic college enrollment gained 3% from 18.7% in 1999 to 21.7% in 2000, and Asian and Pacific Islander college enrollment rose 0.5% from 55.4% in 1999 to 55.9% in 2000. African American college enrollment has increased a total of 6% from 24.5% in 1993, the first year this data was collected, to 30.5% in 2000.

Despite the increases in minority college enrollment, William B. Harvey, vice president of the Office of Minorities in Higher Education for the American Council on Education, warns that minority groups should not become overly optimistic, calling it a half-full vs. a half-empty situation.

“We should be happy that there are more minority students enrolled in college than there were before,” says Harvey. “But the rate of increase [for minority enrollment] is not proportionate to the rate of increase for the total population.”

In fact, the increase in black college enrollment is attributed to the decrease in Caucasian college enrollment rates, as they consistently represent a smaller segment of the overall population.

Thomas A. LaVeist, Ph.D., author of the DayStar Guide to Colleges for African American Students (Kaplan, $20), adds, “A college education is the primary force for black achievement.”

LaVeist helped BLACK ENTERPRISE compile its list of top schools for African Americans in the January 1999 and 2001 issues. He advocates a three-step approach to increasing enrollment rates among minorities, “We need to first strengthen the K-12 schools, especially in the urban areas of our big cities. We need to have leaders continue to talk about the importance of education… and we need to get younger children to understand thatcollege is possible.”

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