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Report: State Board Of Higher Education Finds Minority Enrollment Declining

Minorities In Higher Education

A report to be presented Tuesday at the State Board of Higher Education's March meeting shows that minority enrollment in higher education is declining.

The 66-page report published by the Board of High Education entitled 'Report To The Governor And General Assembly On Underrepresented Groups In Illinois Higher Education,' the report found that underrepresented minority students is a problem before many of them even get there.

Jamie Anderson, a senior at the University of Illinois at Springfield, is a first generation college student and one of a shrinking group of African-Americans in colleges across the state.

"Growing up in the community that I grew up in, I wasn't comfortable. I didn't know who I was. I wasn't allowed to figure out who I was because I didn't have too many people that looked like me to be a role model," said Anderson.

For the first time since 2009, when the announcement was made, the Board of High Education has announced that the state is off course to hit its '60 by 2025' goal - a long-term education plan that aims to have 60 percent of adults in Illinois obtain some kind of post-secondary degree by the year 2025.

"Across the two and four year system for the second year in a row for the African-American students, and for the first time for Hispanic students," said the Board of High Education's Executive Director Dr. Jim Applegate.

Noticing this decline last year, Dr. Applegate says they have been trying to understand what the cause of the this may be. However, few details have emerged thus far.

"[It is] harder to pay for college, the gaps for low income and students of color are growing," said Dr. Applegate.

The report points to numerous other factors that could impact enrollment, but the research to support those theories continues. Other possible factors may include lack of financial aid - more specifically the lack of support for the state's MAP Grant program, and stronger outreach initiatives.

"As a minority growing up in minority communities, those types of resources aren't in your reach - they're harder to come by. You don't necessarily have your high school teachers preaching to you about the types of financial aid all the time," recalls Anderson who is reflecting on her time applying for college.

Inside the report, there is also some good news: once minority students enter into college they are more likely to graduate, on average, at a higher rate when compared to the rest of the student population.

"The ones who are already in the system are continuing to graduate," says Dr. Applegate. However, he added that the only way to keep that rate high is to continue to have minority students enroll into higher education.

"It's very important to me," says Anderson when asked about the report's findings. "There's a few individuals on this campus that I look up too. They look like me and I'd like to see more of that."

The Board of High Education has said they are working on putting together a committee to work on developing a study so as to learn more about the factors influencing enrollment. But due to lack of state aid as a result of the budget impasse, operations are hindered.

Another factor that makes this report even more dire is the fact of it relying on delayed data. Despite this being a 2015 report, it has to use data from the previous year - 2014. In short, the report lags behind one year. That means it does not take into account all the damage resulting from the lack of a state budget. Dr. Applegate says they expect the damage to be tremendous.

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