Minorities in Higher Education

AS the affirmative-action debate heats up nationwide, a new report charts progress in minority participation in higher education.

Between 1992 and 1993, minority-student enrollment in colleges increased slightly, according to the ''Thirteenth Annual Status Report on Minorities in Higher Education,'' released today by the American Council on Education (ACE) in Washington. But the gains were smaller than in recent years.

Minority enrollment percentages still lag behind that of white-students in American colleges, the report concludes. While nearly 42 percent of white high school graduates attended college in 1993, only 33 percent of African-American high school graduates and 36 percent of Hispanics enrolled. And 82 percent of minorities go to public universities, compared with 63 percent of white students.

''The gap in college participation between whites and minorities is cause for continuing concern,'' says Robert Atwell, president of ACE. ''We have a long way to go before we can claim to have achieved equality of educational opportunity and achievement.''

During the past decade, the number of minority students in college has risen steadily. But this growth rate is slowing. Overall minority enrollment grew by 2.4 percent in 1993, compared with more than 7 percent in 1992 and 9 percent in 1991. Hispanic and Asian students show the largest gains. Black high school graduates have seen little improvement in college participation in the last five years.

There is good news, however, in terms of the numbers of minority students completing college course work and earning college degrees rather than dropping out before graduation. The number of bachelor's degrees earned from 1991 to 1992 rose 11 percent. Minority students receiving master's degrees increased by more than 12 percent. Doctorates awarded to African-American men shot up 15 percent in 1993.

''The growing numbers of minority students attaining their degrees is certainly encouraging news,'' Mr. Atwell says. ''It reflects concerted efforts by colleges and universities to improve persistence and completion rates.''

Minority faculty gains are mixed. The number of minority faculty members is on the rise. But most of the gains are among temporary lecturers and visiting staff rather than full-time faculty.

From 1981 to 1991, the number of minorities teaching under temporary status doubled, while the overall tenure rate among minority faculty dropped by 2 percentage points, from 61 percent to 59 percent. At the same time, the tenure rate for white faculty rose by 2 percentage points, from 70 percent to 72 percent.

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