April 1, 2006
Ethnic and racial minority students are struggling on several fronts at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, and officials are looking for ways to serve them better.
Members of minority groups make up 17.8 percent of students at UCCS, which is less than the 20.2 percent state average of public colleges and universities. It’s also less than the 26 percent of southern Colorado residents who are ethnic and racial minorities. UCCS said in a report issued this week that its student body should reflect the population of its main service area, the 22 counties that make up southern Colorado. “While there is a relatively large number of academically talented under-represented students in southern Colorado, low income levels and, in many cases, a lack of understanding about access to higher education hinder efforts to recruit and retain these students,” the report said. Officials prepared the report before a meeting next week of the University of Colorado Blue Ribbon Commission on Diversity. President Hank Brown, who oversees all CU campuses, convened the panel to examine how the campuses handle issues surrounding race and ethnicity. The panel’s 60 members include former Colorado Springs Mayor Mary Lou Makepeace and former City Councilman Richard Skorman. Alyce Clark, a 21-year-old business major at UCCS, said she’s seen improvement in how the school handles race and cultural issues during her two years there. Clark, who is black, said she appreciates the many cultural offerings and opportunities for students of different backgrounds to interact, but not everyone has gotten the message. “A lot of people have to go through straight-out, blatant racism,” she said. The Commission on Diversity was formed after several racist incidents at the CU-Boulder campus, including an e-mail threatening a black student’s life. “That’s pretty scary to me,” Clark said, adding she hadn’t heard of such an extreme incident at the Colorado Springs campus. The UCCS report to the Commission on Diversity included data that raise questions about minority student experiences there. - Minority students are less likely than white students to stay at the university after their first year. The report said the trend started in 2003, coinciding with state funding cuts that resulted in reduced financial aid and increased tuition rates. - In a survey, minority students cited “lack of diversity” as the third-largest disadvantage of attending UCCS. The survey asked students whether they would pick UCCS if they could start their educations over again — 31 percent of minority seniors said “no” or “probably no,” compared with 20 percent of senior students from all groups. - Lack of financial resources is a bigger problem for minority students. The survey found that 47 percent of minority seniors reported being “very” or “somewhat likely” to delay graduating if they run into financial aid problems, compared with 27 percent of senior students from all groups. UCCS officials want the diversity panel to offer suggestions for recruiting minority students and faculty, improving respect for cultural diversity and finding more financial aid money. CONTACT THE WRITER: 636-0187 LEARN MORE - The Blue Ribbon Commission on Diversity meets at 9 a.m. Friday in the university gymnasium at UCCS. Anyone can attend. - To read the report prepared for the commission, visit www.uccs. edu/blueribbon/commission.htm.