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With the support of a recent influx in diversity programs and initiatives, CU is aiming to improve upon its ability to recruit students from various racial and ethnic backgrounds.
The most recent Diversity Report, providing data for the 2010-2011 school year, showed percentage increases in minority enrollment, retention and graduation rates. The report, published annually by the University of Colorado System Office of Institutional Research, summarizes a full year’s worth of information regarding racial, ethnic, economic and gender diversity amongst faculty and students.
Enrollment for minority students at the Boulder campus is at an all-time high, with 4,082 undergraduates and 568 graduates; this is a 7 percent increase from last year. However, CU still ranks behind other major Colorado universities in minority enrollment, and U.S. News and World Report puts CU at the 129th spot out of its list of 264 universities for campus ethnic diversity.
“It’s always our hope to increase the representation of underrepresented students on campus,” Alphonse Keasley, the assistant vice chancellor for CU’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement, said. “The results are not as promising as we’d hoped, but it’s not for a lack of working on this.”
Keasley said that almost every academic department on campus has professors focused on diversity and inclusion efforts that participate in programs and discussions. With the help of these representatives, along with the Office of Diversity and various student groups, the administration has been able to recognize and implement several diversity-oriented programs and initiatives over the past year or so.
“We try to keep the campus as current and involved as possible,” Keasley said. “It’s not that there aren’t lots of initiatives, but the response that we’d like to see is rather slow.”
Junior Monika de la Rosa, a 21-year-old news-editorial journalism major and a member of the Multi-Ethnic Media Organization, said that she noticed the lack of diversity on campus for the first time while working as a student ambassador.
“A parent said to us, ‘I noticed that CU is an all-white campus,’” de la Rosa said. “That was when I began to consciously recognize that CU is really more than ¾ white.”
The problem, de la Rosa said, is the cost of obtaining a CU education. “It’s really expensive, even for upper-middle class families. And not everybody gets scholarships.”
With the inclusion of fees, room and board rates and student health insurance, tuition for the 2011-2012 school year is approximately $9,000 for in-state students and $30,000 for out-of-state students. Currently, the CU administration is working on a tuition increase proposal to be determined and voted on by the Board of Regents in the next two months.
“The university has an entire section on their website dedicated to diversity, and then they’re raising tuition,” de la Rosa said.
While the tuition proposal will likely put CU out of reach for even more students, the university hopes that the consistent minority enrollment and graduation increases will continue to rise with the help of two main factors—a supportive campus climate and no shortage of diversity programs.
Around every four years, CU conducts a survey amongst all of its students, asking questions that give insight into the student experience and what is referred to as an overall campus social climate.
According to the 2010 survey, students were asked about “their level of comfort on the Boulder campus and in the community,” “the extent to which they feel they fit in and are welcome at CU-Boulder,” “how often they hear negative remarks or see negative behaviors targeted at others based on group membership,” and “their perceptions of how well course instructors and course offerings address issues related to social diversity.”
Though 81% of the students who participated in that survey described CU as accepting of diversity, “less positive evaluations” were given by African-American students, students identifying as Buddhist or Muslim, and students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.
The survey’s results are instrumental in the development of diversity-oriented programs on campus that do everything from holding meetings and discussions to finding financial aid and scholarship opportunities.
The more recent diversity initiatives include CU Guaranteed, a transfer program that offers guaranteed admission to community college students who have achieved a specific GPA and amount of semester hours; the Engineering GoldShirt Program, providing scholarships, customized classes and peer groups for students who feel academically underprepared, and The Forum, a series of meetings and discussions about safety for all genders and backgrounds.
But the success of these programs can only be as high as the student participation within them. Like a group or club on campus, diversity-oriented initiatives count on student action in order to achieve any goals, and they regularly struggle to draw in large groups of willing participants.
“People are not going to be in a homogeneous community once they graduate,” Keasley said. “This is the place and time to encourage a mix of young adults engaging in each other’s lives.”
Emma Castleberry, a 23-year-old senior elementary education major, has been involved in multiple diversity programs throughout her time at CU.
Out of everything the university offers, Castleberry said that the most powerful program she has encountered is the Interactive Theatre Project, which provides both scripted and improvised performances that deal with social issues that are often taboo and hardly discussed amongst a large group of people. Similar to The Forum, it engages audience members in a dialogue.
“The performances are never easy to attend,” Castleberry said. “It’s very touching. It will challenge you, push your boundaries and irritate you. People have to go to a state of anger before they have a more progressive perspective. Dialogue and conversation is the only way for people to get their minds around ideas.”
Discussions held by programs like The Forum and the ITP are held throughout the school year. There are diversity resource centers in the UMC and C4C, and information and ways to get involved can also be found on CU’s Outreach and Engagement website.
“You can sleep through your four years at college,” Castleberry said. “You can come out the same person you went in as. Or you can make your own experience by challenging yourself and exploring diversity.”
Contact CU Independent Breaking News Editor Annie Melton at Anne.firstname.lastname@example.org.