WASHINGTON – Minority enrollment at Maryland’s public colleges has risen from 20 percent to almost 32 percent since 1983, reflecting the growth of the state’s minority population and the increasing success of those groups in high school.
The University System of Maryland reported that white enrollment fell from 73,780 students in 1983 to 64,901 in 1997, the last year for which figures were available. Minority enrollment on the system’s 11 campuses rose during the same period from 19,486 to 33,664 students.
University officials said the shift in campus color was not a result of “white flight” but of the growth of the state’s overall minority population, which they said was as responsible for the shift as their own recruitment efforts.
“The changing demographics in Maryland have created opportunities and challenges where they might not have been in the past,” said Chuck Middleton, vice chancellor of academic affairs for the University System. “The population mix is changing somewhat. I don’t see any white flight to other places.”
Maryland’s minority population grew from 31 percent in 1990 to 36 percent in 1998, according to the Census Bureau, compared to national minority population growth from 25 percent to 29 percent in the same period.
Minorities have also made significant gains in high school graduation rates, making more of them candidates for the state’s universities, said Linda Clement, assistant vice president and director of undergraduate admissions at the University of Maryland College Park.
The Maryland State Department of Education reported that the number of minorities graduating from a public high school rose from 13,953 in 1990 to 18,186 in 1997. White graduates grew only slightly in that time, rising from 25,927 to 26,847.
“The high school graduation rate in Maryland has become more diverse and we mirror that diversity,” Clement said.
The more-diverse pool of potential students has led state colleges to actively recruit minorities, said Clement. College Park recruiters visit high schools with large minority populations and try to convince their students to visit the campus. Race is also considered when reviewing applications for enrollment, Clement said.
“We use race as a factor among 25 other factors for admission,” Clement said.
With the more diverse student body have come outreach efforts on all of the state’s campuses. College Park created the Diversity Initiative in 1993 to coordinate lectures on the importance of diversity and to help fund campus organizations that wish to promote diversity.
Salisbury State University, which reported a few hate crime incidents in the early 1990s, had “town meetings” to address racial issues on campus, said Vaughn White, director of multiethnic services at the school. He said Salisbury also has a multicultural festival every year, which includes a human chain around campus to promote diversity.
“We’re constantly working to enhance the diversity of the campus on a regular basis,” he said.
Frostburg State University officials said they try to make minority students comfortable with various targeted services, including a tutoring program and a faculty mentoring program. Though the minority population may be small at Frostburg, the students and faculty try to help each other out, said Carmen Jackson, assistant to the vice president of student educational services.
“We have a close-knit minority population here,” said Jackson.
Middleton said there are other reasons that more minorities are applying to the university system. The system recently made it easier for community college students to convert grades to a four-year institution and has boosted academic advising for minorities, he said.
“It encourages students to stay and complete school,” Middleton said.
Even the state’s historically black universities say they have been benefiting from the demographic shifts. Bowie State University said its black enrollment, which already stood at 71 percent in 1983, rose to 80.9 percent in 1997 on the strength of its emphasis on technology programs.
“While the entire metropolitan area has been blossoming, so too has Bowie State,” said Loretta Hardge, director of university relations at the school.