Getting Minorities to Graduate in the Majority

The demographic makeup of colleges and universities across the country continues to change each semester. It’s been 60 years since the University of Texas admitted its first black student, and this semester marks the first freshman class in which white students were the minority according to an article in The New York Times. White students made up 51 percent of the freshman class at UT in 2009, and 48 percent of the class in 2010. While this type of shift is becoming quite common at other top universities, the U.T. demographic breakthrough came quicker than most had predicted.

For years, educators have seen the numbers- increasing birth rates in minorities with low high school graduation rates and college admittance rates. Reasons for the imbalance have long been attributed to economic differences, the lack of college preparation, and the fact that many of those students are the first in their families to go to college, which can lead to detachment. Disadvantages can also be attributed to these students that have not been given the opportunity to take higher level or Advanced Placement classes. William Powers, Jr, the president of U.T., says these students are "terrific" but says that because of financial and other challenges, they are simply at a disadvantage.

While the demographics shift is garnering media attention, there are also issues arising as to how universities that are financially limited are supposed to boost graduation rates. On the national level, more than 50 percent of Hispanic and black students are unable to earn an undergraduate degree in 6 years, in comparison to white students at 40 percent. Programs, such as the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, set up at U.T. in 2007, with an annual budget of $30.4 million, aimed at encouraging minorities in high school to apply to college. The program has appeared to be successful, as students in the program have GPAs and retention rates just as good, and even better, than other students.

Such programs are crucial for students that do not have the means to go to college, and that come from families where their parents did not attend college and were not born in the U.S. Decisions set to be made this year by the Texas Legislature will determine whether programs such as these will lose funding and how much will be cut. Some schools, such as University of Pan-American in South Texas, which has a 89 percent Hispanic student rate, claim that cuts to programs that help minorities would be "devastating."

And although educators see the demographics shift taking over, they do not necessarily see students are being as diversified as they could be, with many of the students groups sticking to their selective groups. However, still others feel the demographics alone are something to be proud of, as most of the students at U.T say that they have hardly noticed the shift, which shows that it has been happening for some time now.

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