N. Zeke Campfield
Minority recruitment continues to rise throughout the UW system, but drop-out rates among black, Latino and American Indian students is higher than that of white students, UW officials said Thursday.
According to a report by UW-Madison Dean of Students Alicia Chavez to the UW System Board of Regents in Eau Claire Thursday, recruitment concerns need to be matched by a higher interest in retention.
“A student’s reasons for leaving college are almost never academic,” Chavez told the Board. “Our students leave because the college community does not feel like their own community, and they cannot see themselves in the way we operationally run our universities.”
The regents are meeting this week to review an annual progress report on Plan 2008, a 10-year plan designed in 1998 to enhance diversity at UW schools. According to the report, black, Latino, Native-American and Asian-American student enrollment has increased nearly 7 percent in the past three years, compared to an increase in white enrollment of 4 percent.
But of students who entered a UW school in 1994, only 41 percent of the minority students graduated in six years, compared with 60 percent of white students.
UW-Oshkosh Chancellor Richard Wells told the Associated Press this might be changed if professors and staff members reevaluate their standard ways of teaching. He said current practices may unknowingly be discouraging minority students.
“What we do negatively impacts others in ways we’re not sensitive to,” Wells said. “When we become aware of it, we can change it.”
The regents will not know how Plan 2008 has affected retention rates for another four years, since students who entered after the plan was initiated are only halfway through their undergraduate programs.
According to enrollment reports released by UW-Madison on Sept. 24, the number of enrolled minority students grew only slightly.
The report shows UW-Madison hosts 901 African American students, up from 869 in the spring 2001 term; 1682 Asian Americans, down from 1654; 214 Native Americans, up from 205; and 973 Hispanic Americans, down from 982. Total enrollment rose from 3,710 to 3,770, an increase of 1.6 percent.
But according to freshman minority rates, the increase was much more substantial. The report found 682 minority freshmen at UW-Madison this year, up 7.2 percent from last year.
Drop-out rates were not released in the report.