July 24, 2000

Contact: Bob Bruce, 503-725-5714
Source: Shirley Clark, 541-346-5720

Racial Diversity Growing Among Students at Oregon Public Universities

PORTLAND - Racial and ethnic minority students are gradually changing the face of Oregon's public universities, according to a new statewide report.

Nearly 500 new students of color were added to the ranks of Oregon's seven public university campuses between 1998 and 1999, bringing their total headcount enrollment to 8,441. That total accounts for 12.5 percent of all students enrolled at Oregon University System campuses in 1999, slightly more than the 11.2 percent of Oregon's statewide minority population as measured in 1998.

Academic degrees awarded to minority students tend to mirror those awarded to majority students, according to the report. Social sciences, business and humanities and fine arts degrees were the most frequently earned by students of color in the 1998-1999 academic year. The degree categories were also the most popular among all OUS graduates during the same period.

Findings from the report were prepared by the Office of the Chancellor and presented in Portland last week to a committee of the Oregon State Board of Higher Education.

"Our public universities are becoming more diverse over time, just as Oregon is becoming more diverse," said Chancellor Joe Cox. "This report communicates the value we place on racial and ethnic diversity, what we are doing to encourage diversity and how we can improve on our efforts."

Although the University System is making progress overall, the report notes that the proportion of some enrolled groups is not keeping pace with comparable statewide population figures. For example African American students represented 1.6 percent of Oregon public university students in 1999, slightly less than the state's 1.8 percent African American population. The gap is even broader for Hispanic/Latino students who composed 3.2 percent of the University System enrollment compared to the state's 5 percent Hispanic/Latino population.

Other racial and ethnic groups in the public universities equaled or surpassed their representation statewide. American Indians/Alaska Natives accounted for the same 1.4 percent representation within the University System in 1998-1999 as they did within the state as a whole. Asian/Pacific Americans composed a larger percent of public university students, 6.4 percent, than their statewide proportion of 3 percent.

Faculty and staff diversity also was examined in the report. The 218 faculty of color within the University System represented 9.5 percent of all full-time, ranked instructional faculty, a figure that has held steady for roughly two years. In addition, the report offers the first data available on diversity among public university staff in Oregon. It shows that 483 staff members, representing 8.3 percent of the entire staff, are people of color. According to the report, racial and ethnic minorities composed 5.8 percent of executive/administrative and managerial staff and 9.2 percent of support staff.

The report warns against focusing exclusively on numbers. "Diversity viewed solely as access for minority persons is becoming a dated concept that does not fully address the needs of people of color, today's institutions, or society's needs," the report states. Although it says greater representation in higher education is clearly needed, it notes "there are also strong needs for engagement, inclusion, and determinations of the manners in which diversity truly enhances the educational and employment environments for all within our institutions."

The report highlights various initiatives by each of the seven Oregon University System campuses to enhance racial and ethnic diversity. Examples include "bridge funding" for faculty recruiting and hiring; students of color conferences and retention programs; targeted scholarships; campus-wide forums, workshops and seminars; student organizations; campus and community task forces or council discussions; departmental hiring incentives, junior and senior high school outreach; multicultural curricula and research; and "grow your own" strategies, such as teacher education programs for teacher's aides who are racial or ethnic minorities.

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