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May 30, 2006


SPRINGFIELD – Minority students and faculty continue to make strides in Illinois higher education, according to a new report by the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE), although significant gaps remain and progress in enrollments and employment has been uneven.

The annual Underrepresented Groups Report will be presented to the Board at its June 6 meeting at Morton College in Cicero. In addition, Board members will hear from Kati Haycock, one of the nation’s leading child advocates in the field of education.  She is director of the Education Trust, an independent, nonprofit organization established in 1990 that works for the high academic achievement of all students at all levels, pre-kindergarten through college, and for closing the achievement gaps that separate low-income students and students of color from other youth.  Haycock will speak on the importance of competent, qualified teachers for closing the achievement gap in Illinois and measures to improve teacher quality, topics recently raised by Governor Rod Blagojevich in his letter requesting that the Joint Education Committee be reconvened.

According to the report on underrepresented groups – which includes ethnic and racial minorities, women, and persons with disabilities – in fall 2005, minority students comprised 28 percent of all higher education enrollments, up from 24 percent in fall 1995. The 10-year trend in minority enrollments has been positive, if not dramatic. Between 1995 and 2005, enrollments of Hispanic students rose nearly 63 percent, while black enrollment increased slightly over 20 percent during that decade. And though Hispanics registered a 4 percent enrollment gain in 2005, compared to a year earlier, black enrollments remained stable.

Gains in faculty ranks have been impressive, particularly for Hispanics. Over the past decade, the number of Hispanic full-time faculty rose 65.5 percent, while black representation among full-time faculty members increased by a more modest 22 percent. Year-to-year comparisons show that Hispanic faculty increased by nearly 10 percent from 2004 to 2005; black faculty went up by 3.6 percent. Overall employment on campuses increased more than 80 percent for Hispanics over the decade (5.2 percent from 2004-05), and nearly 10 percent for blacks in the 10-year period (1.5 percent in from 2004-05).

On average, there was a $14,400 salary differential favoring male full-time faculty over women at public universities in 2005, a gap that has widened by $300 since 2001. At community colleges, male full-time faculty received average salaries of $59,600 in 2005, or $2,500 more than women, a differential that has narrowed by $800 since 2001.

The report notes gains in degrees granted for Hispanic and black students, both over the past decade and in the most recent year-to-year comparisons, and for both undergraduate and graduate students. From 1995 to 2005, undergraduate degrees awarded to Hispanic students went up by more than 95 percent, and graduate degrees for Hispanics rose by 110 percent. During that period, undergraduate degrees for blacks increased 50 percent, while graduate degrees rose about 70 percent.

However, minority students continue to lag behind others in retention and graduation rates. The Underrepresented Groups Report covers three years of full-time, first-time freshmen cohorts – 2002-2004 – for purposes of examining student retention. Generally, both Hispanic and black students tend to have lower freshmen-to-sophomore retention rates at public universities than the overall rate of retention, although on many campuses the difference is negligible. While the trend of retention rates is generally upward, or at least stable, over the three cohorts, it is not universally so at all universities.

More consistent, and perhaps more worrisome, are the disparities in six-year graduation rates between minority students and the overall student population. The report uses three cohorts – 1996-1998 – of students to examine six-year graduation rates. Although, again, there are exceptions, the differences in graduation rates between minority students and their peers is often substantial and persistent over time.

The Underrepresented Groups Report gives a statewide statistical snapshot of the status and progress of various groups in higher education. But it also highlights a rich tapestry of efforts by institutions to improve the participation and success of minorities, women, and individuals with disabilities in college. The report details projects, programs, and special initiatives at colleges and universities designed to recruit, assist, and foster success for students and faculty from diverse backgrounds.


Don Sevener



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