©2000 My internship
June 8, 2000

Total college enrollment will swell by 19 percent, or 2.6 million students, over the next 15 years. African-American, Hispanic and Asian-American students will comprise 80 percent of that growth, according to a study released by the Educational Testing Service.

Between 1995 and 2015, Hispanic-Americans will become the largest minority group enrolled in higher education, growing from 11 percent to 15 percent. The Asian-American student population will surge from 5 percent to 8 percent, while African-American enrollment will remain at 13 percent.

The amount of white college students will decrease to 63 percent of the total by 2015. They will become a minority on campuses in California, the District of Columbia, Hawaii and New Mexico by then, according to the May study, "Crossing the Great Divide: Can We Achieve Equity When Generation Y Goes To College?"

"This is a very important survey and it contains very good news in terms of enrollment of students of color," said Janetta Hammock, public-affairs officer for the American Council on Education. "Demographic data shows the numbers will continue to increase."

"The fact that so many more minority students are opting for college is great news and underscores minority families’ dedication to educating their children," said Sonia Hernandez, deputy superintendent for curriculum and instruction of the California Department of Education.

But Hernandez said the study’s findings raise questions about how the educational system will accommodate the rising number of minority college students.

"I am very worried that we could fail these children," she said. "If history is any guide, many states will be tempted to rely on tuition hikes to cover the costs of all these new students. But given the demographics of who the new students are, tuition hikes are a risky and inadequate response."

Hernandez said many of these students are the first in their families to attend college, and many come from families with limited incomes. "Tuition hikes could turn them away and, in the long run, jeopardize the nation’s economic growth."

Besides the financial aspect, Hammock said universities must meet the challenge to keep minorities in college through graduation. "We need to make sure once we get these students to campuses we can keep them here through graduation and into graduate school," she said.

Adding to the cause for concern, the study also shows the number of African Americans and Hispanics in higher education is actually decreasing in proportion to population growth between 1995 and 2015.

The authors of the study urged the government to continue promoting education among minorities. "We need to be careful that the growing number of minority students ready for college don’t give us a false sense that we have achieved our diversity goals," author Richard Fry said.

A May study by New York’s Public Agenda, found that 87 percent of parents say college education has become as important as a high-school diploma used to be.

College is especially important to minorities, with 65 percent of Hispanic parents and 47 percent of African-American parents agreeing that college the most important component of success. Only 33 percent of white parents and 35 percent of the public agreed.

The increase in college enrollment among minorities will benefit the country economically, the authors said.

"Encouraging more minority enrollment on the nation’s campuses will translate into a more diverse professional workforce," the study finds. "This, in turn is very likely to strengthen the United States’ ability to compete in a global economy."

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