Public Colleges in Florida and Kentucky Try to Account for Sharp Drops in Black Enrollments

Peter Schmidt, Chronicle of Higher Education, Oct. 14

Public-university officials in Florida and Kentucky are taking heat for declines in black enrollment.

The University of Kentucky enrolled 40 percent fewer black freshmen this fall than last year, while black students’ share of the total freshman enrollment at Florida’s public universities is the smallest it has been since 1999.

At Kentucky—where the number of black freshmen dropped from 256, or 6 percent of the entering class, to 151, or 4 percent—administrators initially blamed the lower numbers on a slight increase in the minimum ACT score required for admission. They said the university had chosen not to admit students whose borderline test scores suggested they might not be able to compete academically.

That explanation brought an angry response from several black Kentucky lawmakers, who accused the university of offering poor excuses for its own failure to maintain diversity, and of operating on the offensive assumption that black applicants could not cut it there.

They called for a meeting with the university’s president, Lee T. Todd Jr., who sought to reassure them by outlining a list of steps that his institution was taking to reverse the enrollment decline. Those included adding three new recruiters, reallocating $500,000 to diversity-related scholarships, and adopting a new “holistic” admissions system that will look beyond an applicants’ grades and test scores.

Ironically, the controversy over Kentucky’s numbers comes just one year after its black-freshman enrollment rose by 20 percent, and two years after a 30-percent jump.

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