Minority retention efforts on the rise this fall

Bryan Wroten

Credit: Steve Schirra

Despite minor fluctuations in the past few years, black enrollment numbers have remained fairly steady.

The enrollment census for the 2005-06 school year will not take place until the 15th day of school, Sept. 17, in order to have an accurate reading, said Wayne Schneider, senior institutional research information officer at the Office of Research, Planning and Institutional Effectiveness. The three-week wait allows for dropouts.

The RPIE Factbooks only go as far back as fall semester of 2001 for racial and ethnic enrollment numbers. In Fall 2001, the number of black students was 1,381, according to the factbooks. The number increased the next year to 1,440 and again to 1,562 in 2003, but fell slightly to 1,520 in Fall 2004.

Schneider said the drop isn’t something to worry about and that the fluctuation could be normal.

With a 10 percent minority population on campus, the goal is growth, said Greg Jarvie, dean of students and student ombudsman.

“We’re always looking to attract more students,” Jarvie said.

To do so, Jarvie said the university has several programs and groups. For example, the Kupita/Transiciones Program is for the pretransition and retention of freshmen African-American, Latino and Native American students. The program is in addition to regular orientation, he said.

The Kupita/Transiciones’ schedule of events started Aug. 21, including motivational speaker Andres Lara and multicultural sessions such as “Responsabilidad Colectiva DeTrabajo,” or Collective Work and Responsibility.

Jarvie said the first six to seven weeks are critical for student retention.

“When bringing in an African-American student from an urban center like Cleveland,” Jarvie said, “coming to a predominantly white campus could be a shock.”

He said the university tries to provide programming and outreach to minority students. All of these efforts are not just for minority students, however. Jarvie said it’s also an attempt to educate the majority.

Junior deaf education major T.J. Reeves said the university and groups like Black United Students and Kent Hillel have made the campus more open-minded. Reeves said the main problem comes from students showing an insincere interest in other cultures.

Reeves said a greater diversity on campus would help students “get a better understanding of the world.”

Although the programs available at Kent State might attract prospective African-American and other minority freshmen students, there remains the problem of growing tuition costs. Jarvie said one of the concerns is that the cost of education continues to increase and it becomes questionable if those of lower socioeconomic standing can afford college.

Schneider said RPIE has not done a study of rising tuition costs and their effect on minority enrollment.

“If a student can’t afford to come,” Scheider said, “and you raise tuition, then he can’t afford it even more.”

To combat increasing costs, Jarvie said the university created a new loan with Key Bank. The Kent Opportunity Loan Program/Key Bank application states the loan is for students who have exhausted all other financial aid resources and cannot meet their educational expenses.

“It is concerning, if not frightening, for the future of this country if we are potentially eliminating a percentage of the country because they cannot go to college,” Jarvie said. “It’s a national issue. It needs to be addressed at a national level and seriously looked at sooner than later.”

Contact religion and minority affairs reporter Bryan Wroten at [email protected].