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November 23, 2009

Gains for minorities in college, But achievement gap persists

Enrollments, degrees up, but education attainment still lags

SPRINGFIELD – Despite gains in minority college enrollments and among the ranks of faculty, Hispanics and blacks remain significantly underrepresented on college campuses.

The 2009 Underrepresented Groups Report to the Governor and General Assembly, shows solid upward trends for minority enrollments, credentials earned, and faculty hired. The report will be presented to the Illinois Board of Higher Education at its December 8th meeting at the University of Chicago.

According to the report, minority enrollments increased 44 percent between 1998 and 2008. Certificates and degrees awarded to minority students – black, Hispanic, Asian, and American Indian, as defined in statute – rose 71 percent during that period. And minority faculty increased 43 percent.

That’s the good news.

Despite the gains in the past 10 years, racial and ethnic minorities continue to trail whites and Asians in educational attainment.

“The Underrepresented Groups Report is a classic case of how full or empty is the glass,” Carrie J. Hightman, Chairwoman of the Board of Higher Education, said. “While we applaud the progress over the past decade, the report also shows that we have a long way to go. And it underscores the findings and recommendations of the Illinois Public Agenda for College and Career Success – we simply must devote the resources needed to close this achievement gap.”

The report shows several trouble spots for the goal of increasing educational attainment for underrepresented populations. First, 84 percent of white students graduate from high school, but just 60 percent of Hispanics and barely over half of African Americans leave high school with a diploma. In addition, about 45 percent of white graduates enter college right after high school, but only about a third of Hispanics and African Americans go on to college from high school. To reach the college-going rate of whites, there would need to be an additional 22,000 Hispanics and 36,000 African Americans entering college after high school.

Also, even though minority faculty numbers have improved, faculty ranks are not nearly as diverse as the student body. About 9 percent of college enrollments are Hispanic students but just over 3 percent of faculty are Hispanic. Similarly, nearly 15 percent of students are African American, but only 5.4 percent of faculty.

The Board will review two other information items that are noteworthy.

The annual faculty salary report shows that public universities lost ground in making faculty salaries competitive with national peers during the past four years. In fiscal 2009, the average faculty salary at public universities was $75,800, or 93.6 percent of the median salary paid faculty at comparable institutions across the nation. In fiscal 2006, Illinois public universities were at 95 percent of the median salary at institutions with whom they compete for faculty. Other sectors – community colleges and private institutions – exceeded the median salary of peer schools.

Another report being presented to the Board shows that fall 2009 enrollments grew by nearly 4 percent over a year earlier, fueled principally by a significant jump in the number of students attending community colleges. Enrollments in the state’s 48 community colleges grew by about 23,000 students, or 6.4 percent in 2009.


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