Number of minority freshmen highest in history

Editor’s note: The headline for this story was revised for accuracy at 10:31 p.m. Sept. 16.

Ray Brown, dean of admissions, made it his goal for the past nine years to raise the percentage of minority students in the freshman class to 20 percent.

With 19.4 percent of students in the freshman class being minorities, Brown missed his goal this year, but the figure remains the highest number of minority freshmen in university history.

“When you’ve got this big white ship going 100 miles an hour in this direction, it is really tough to turn it,” Brown said. “In real numbers it’s working, but in percentages it’s tough because the class is so much larger.”

Brown said he expected to reach the 20 percent goal next year because the university placed it high on the priority list.

This year’s freshman class brought in the largest number of minority students in university history, according to a demographics report made available last week. The number of minority students went from 326 in the freshmen class last year to 354 this year. However, a greater percentage of minorities arrived in the incoming freshman class of 2008, making up 19.6 percent of the freshman population, compared to 19.4 percent this year.

Blacks, Hispanics, Asian-Americans and Native Americans were sampled in the demographic report. International students did not count in the report. A record high number of enrollees came from Native Americans and Hispanics, with 18 Native Americans and 176 Hispanics. Asian-Americans reached their second-highest enrollment record with 59 students.

Brown said people laughed at him when he proposed the 20 percent goal in 2000. To set his plan in motion, Brown said that while he examined how the university would go about increasing minority enrollment, he kept the focus on making a change.

“We were so far behind the curve 10 years ago, in terms of students of color here, that I said, in essence, ‘We’re going to scrutinize this some, but mostly, I don’t care. We are going to do everything we possibly can if you think it has a remote chance of working,'” Brown said.

National, state and local programs helped raise the diversity in the student body, Brown wrote in an e-mail. Among the national programs are the National Hispanic Institute, an international organization that promotes Hispanic youth, and College Horizons, a New Mexico-based nonprofit that provides pre-college summer programs for Native American high school students. The university began to collaborate with the College Horizons program last year to increase Native American recruitment, Brown wrote.

Along with minority students, the overall attendance number grew with the class of 2013, according to the report. In this year’s freshman class, 1,821 students indicated they would attend school in the fall. The attendance increased by about 200 people from last year’s freshman class.

April Brown, assistant director for Inclusiveness and Intercultural Services, said she expected larger turnouts to IIS events because of the increase of students and the increase of minority students.

The number of freshman students admitted this year should not be something to get used to because the university’s ideal class size was 1,600, Chancellor Victor Boschini said in the first Staff Assembly meeting of the semester and again at fall convocation. Boschini said the additional funds coming from the unusually large class would go directly back into the endowment.