At a time that more college students and a larger share of college students than ever before are members of minority groups, higher percentages of them are enrolling at "minority serving" institutions -- those with legally defined missions or enrollment patterns related to the demographics of their student bodies.
Between 1984 and 2004, minority undergraduate enrollment increased from 1.9 million to 4.7 million, or 146 percent. But while in 1984, minority-serving institutions enrolled 38 percent of minority students, by 2004, they enrolled a healthy majority (58 percent) of minority students. The data were in a report released Tuesday by the U.S. Education Department's National Center for Education Statistics.
The report notes characteristics of different subgroups of minority institutions, whose numbers are sharply up. At the same time, the report notes challenges facing these institutions, many of which serve students who are more likely than others to have low incomes, low graduation rates, and gender gaps in enrollment patterns.
And in a finding that points to changing enrollment patterns, the study finds that while the proportion of minority students who are enrolled at historically black colleges has gone down slightly in the last 20 years, the percentage of minority students who are enrolled at non-historically black, but black-serving, institutions is up, as are the percentages of colleges identified as serving Hispanic and Asian students.
Different reports and policies have classified colleges in different ways. The new report starts with two definitions provided by Congress. Historically black colleges are those created in the era of segregation to provide for the education of black students. Tribal colleges are run by tribes, many times on reservations. In both of those cases, there is no enrollment test for categorization and while some of those institutions are substantially made up of black or American Indian students, others enroll many students from different groups. To those two, these additional categories are added:
- Black-serving non-historically black colleges and universities: those in which black students constitute at least 25 percent of undergraduate enrollment, while students of all other individual minority groups each constitute less than 25 percent of undergraduate enrollment.
- Hispanic-serving: those institutions where Hispanic students constitute at least 25 percent of undergraduate enrollment, while students of all other individual minority groups each constitute less than 25 percent of undergraduate enrollment.
- Asian-serving: those institutions where Asian students constitute at least 25 percent of undergraduate enrollment, while students of all other individual minority groups each constitute less than 25 percent of undergraduate enrollment.
- American Indian-serving non-tribal colleges: those in which American Indian students constitute at least 25 percent of undergraduate enrollment, while students of all other individual minority groups each constitute less than 25 percent of undergraduate enrollment.
- Other minority-serving: institutions that don't meet other categories but where minority students as a whole make up at least 50 percent of the total undergraduate enrollment. (NOTE: These categories have some similarities, but are not identical to those used in new federal programs recently created for some of these institutions.)
During the 20 years studied, the number of minority-serving institutions increased dramatically even though one group (historically black colleges) couldn't increase in number because its legal definition is based on a particular point in time.
Change in Numbers of Minority-Serving Colleges and Other Colleges
|Black-serving, non historically black||200||622|
|American-Indian serving (includes tribal)||26||46|
In terms of where minority students are enrolled, the period studied showed increases for all types of minority-serving institutions, but wide variation in how the sectors changed in the percentage of all minority students they enrolled.
Enrollment of Minority Students at Minority-Serving Colleges and Other Colleges
|Category||1984 minority enrollment||2004 minority enrollment||1984 percentage of all minority students enrolled in sector||2004 percentage of all minority students enrolled in sector|
|Black-serving, non historically black||242,852||732,435||12.7%||15.6%|
|American-Indian serving (includes tribal)||9,709||28,824||0.5%||0.6%|
The report is descriptive and does not raise explicitly the policy implications of the various shifts. But the report notes that the minority-serving institutions, with the exception of Asian-serving institutions, tend to be less competitive in admissions that most colleges, and to have lower graduation rates and greater gender gaps (with fewer men even than national averages in which male enrollment has been shrinking).