Minority enrollment reaches all-time high

Friday, August 29, 2008 | 3:17 p.m. CDT; updated 8:57 p.m. CDT, Sunday, August 31, 2008

COLUMBIA — Within the well-publicized news that MU's freshmen enrollment is the highest in its history is another record-breaking statistic: The rates of African-American and Hispanic freshmen enrollment also are the highest in MU's history.

The number of freshmen African-American students has grown 27.5 percent, and Hispanic student enrollment increased 29.7 percent this fall . Both numbers are higher than the 15.6 percent increase in freshmen enrollment, reported earlier by MU News Bureau.

Overall, MU freshman enrollment for fall semester is 5,812 — 785 more freshmen than than last year.

As of Aug. 25, all minority groups were up by 153 freshmen, an increase of 26.9 percent from 2007. Overall minority enrollment numbers in the past few years have remained unchanged. African-American students make up 6 percent of the total undergraduate population, according to opening day numbers. Similarly, the Hispanic group makes up 2 percent of the population. These numbers have not moved since the fall of 2005.

Roger Worthington, assistant deputy chancellor and chief diversity officer of the chancellor's diversity initiative, says MU has a long-range plan to increase diversity enrollment, and that's one of the reasons for the increase. But there are others.

"A major factor is the kind of campus that we're perceived to be - one that is welcoming to the underrepresented minority student body," Worthington said.

"We make sure that students have an increased awareness of programs, groups and resources to help the students become more successful," said Jabari Turner, coordinator of culturally diverse recruitment programs. "More recently, we have been giving more students and high schools attention if they haven't had it in the past."

"For minority recruitment, we use specific efforts to build relationships with high schools and students over time," Barbara Rupp, MU director of admissions, said.

During the visits, students are encouraged to visit MU and gauge its diversity for themselves, Rupp said.

"We also put extra effort into events such as a Multicultural Recruitment Day, where we can bus students in from different high schools and cities so they can spend time here on campus," Rupp said.

Minority student outreach programs can have a big impact on incoming students' college choice, Turner said.

But MU also tracks the retention rate of minority students, and that's improving among African-American students. For the 2006 freshman class, the number of white freshmen who re-enrolled in 2007 was 84.6 percent. Among African-American students, the return rate was higher, at 84.9 percent, Worthington said.

Programs such as the Multicultural Center and Black Culture Center are contributing to that improvement through activities that enrich students' lives professionally, academically and culturally, Turner said.

"Once we get students here, we offer them programs like academic retention which are directly beneficial to students' success," Turner said. "Some students receive help from a mentor. The retention services can track them, and are able to help the greater good of the student. This is a big draw; something that the students can rely on when they are in need."



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