Climbing uphill

UF sees slight boost in minority enrollment


Deanna Kolbjornsen, left, and Roxanne Simpson talk on Turlington Plaza between classes on Monday.

MICHAEL C. WEIMAR/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Tuesday, July 1, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, July 1, 2003 at 12:42 a.m.

A week after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that affirmative action can be used in admissions decisions, figures released by the University of Florida, which doesn't use race for admissions, show a slight increase in the total numbers of black and Hispanic students attending summer sessions.

"I think it does show the strategies we're trying to put in place to maintain a diverse student body are working or at least are beginning to work," Associate Provost Joe Glover said of the numbers.

UF officials were not able to release numbers of minority freshmen enrolled in the summer courses, which would more accurately reflect year-to-year success in enrolling minority students.

Enrollment figures released Monday for the remaining two summer terms, "Summer B" and "Summer C," showed a student body that is slightly more black and Hispanic than both last year and 2000, the last year in which UF considered race as one of several factors in admissions decisions.

"We're anticipating better numbers as our programs take better root," Glover said.

Following the June 23 Supreme Court decision that upheld the limited use of race in admissions decisions, the University of Texas at Austin announced plans this week to reincorporate affirmative action in considering student applications.

But other states have written "race-neutral" admissions policies into law, including California and Florida, where Gov. Jeb Bush announced he plans to "stay the course" he set in 1999, when he used an executive order to ban affirmative action in admissions.

On the first day of Summer B on Monday, black students and Hispanic students gathered on Turlington Plaza expressed mixed feelings on the subject.

Yaschika Edwards said she figures she probably got into UF - before the race-neutral decree - with a little boost from affirmative action. The 22-year-old recent UF grad said she had a 3.7 high school grade-point average when she applied, but only had a 21 out of 36 on the ACT. The UF average was an ACT score of 26.3 last year.

Minorities typically score lower on college admissions tests such as the ACT and SAT, and, like some experts, Edwards attributes much of the gap to cultural bias in the exams.

"I had a lower score, but it didn't really reflect my ability to succeed at UF," said Edwards, who graduated in four years this spring with a degree in psychology.

Several other students who were admitted after Bush's ban on affirmative action took effect said they're glad they don't have to wonder whether race played a factor in their acceptance letters.

"I support affirmative action personally, because sometimes minority students feel like the world's against them," said Roxanne Simpson, an 18-year-old industrial and systems engineering major from Fort Lauderdale.

At the same time, Simpson, who is black, said she's glad she was admitted after One Florida took effect, since she said it means she got into UF on her own merit.

"It's a good idea to have affirmative action," said Marco Jean, a sophomore who describes himself as Puerto Rican, Jamaican and Guatemalan. "But I think it's fair and unfair at the same time."

Knowing that he got into UF on his own "makes you feel not superior to others," Jean, 19, said. "But it gives you a little self-pride."

"I don't have to have people looking at me and saying, 'She just got in here because she's black,' " said 19-year-old senior Jacquelyn Griffin, who was admitted in the fall of 2001.

Race-conscious strategy

Implementing a race-neutral admissions policy that minimizes the impact to minority enrollment has been costly for UF, both in staff time and money.

After a severe one-year dip in diversity in 2001, the state's most selective university has beaten back the plummeting minority enrollments that plagued other states with similar bans by waging a concentrated race-conscious campaign to ramp up the number of minority applications.

Glover said "it's fair to say" UF has been very race-conscious about recruitment, while remaining race-neutral about admissions.

Among other tactics, UF has "adopted" six inner-city schools that are primarily attended by Hispanic or black students, guaranteeing admission plus tuition and books to the top five graduating seniors each year.

It also has expanded its recruitment weekends for minority high school students, holding workshops on how to fill out an application and offering to notify minority students early about their admission status without requiring the same commitment to attend that nonminority "early admission" students make.

With a wider funnel of applicants, UF has been able to produce roughly an equivalent stream of black and Hispanic students who were admitted before One Florida took effect. In the three years since Bush banned the use of race in admissions decisions, UF has released freshman-only enrollment figures for the summer, which more directly reflect its year-to-year success in enrolling minority students.

Because Admissions Director Bill Kolb is out of town this week, Glover said the combined "Summer B" and "Summer C" enrollments for all students were the only figures immediately available.f-z

The figures released Monday show that black students comprise 8.91 percent of the students enrolled in the remaining two summer terms, "Summer B" and "Summer C," versus 8.81 percent last year and 8.8 percent in 2000, the last year UF used race as part of a matrix of considerations in admissions. UF suffered a severe dip in minority enrollment in 2001, but those figures could not be obtained Monday.

Hispanic students comprise 9.88 percent of the summer school students this year as compared with 9.49 percent last year and 9.33 percent in 2000.

Carrie Miller can be reached at millerc@gvillesun.com or 338-3103.

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