Some Michigan universities make top-100 list in minority degrees

By ERIC FREEDMAN
Capital News Service
LANSING – Two universities in the state are among the top 100 nationally in the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded to African-American, Hispanic, Asian-American and Native American students, according to a new survey.

The University of Michigan ranked 62nd and Michigan State ranked 87th for the 2012-13 academic year.

For master’s degrees, U of M, Central Michigan and Wayne State appeared in the top 100. Thomas M. Cooley Law School, U of M and Wayne State made the top 100 for professional degrees in fields — like law, divinity and medicine – and for doctorates.

Cooley and University of Detroit Mercy are the only private institutions in the state to make any of the lists.

The annual study appeared in the magazine “Diverse Issues in Higher Education.” The data comes from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, said study author Victor Borden of Indiana University.

Michigan’s public and private universities varied in which lists they appear on . For example, Central Michigan, Wayne State, UD Mercy, Oakland and MSU are among the top 100 in awarding master’s degrees to Native American students.

But Central Michigan and Wayne State are the only two on the list for African-American master’s students. When it comes to Asian-American master’s students, U of M and Wayne State are the only Michigan institutions on the list, while U of M is the only one among the top 100 for Hispanic master’s students.

Michigan institutions face a number of challenges in increasing their proportion of minority degree-recipients, said Michael Boulus, executive director of the Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan. The council represents all the public universities in the state.

“All 15 of our institutions are committed to admitting as many historically underrepresented groups as possible,” Boulus said. “That’s a given.”

One obstacle, he said, is a decline in the percent of high school graduates who are “career and college ready” – meaning qualified for post-high school education or to support themselves in the workforce.

“Our bottleneck is really K-12 education,” he said.

At the same time, elementary and secondary school enrollment in the state continues to drop.

And Michigan is a long way from achieving its goal of having 60 percent of its residents ages 25-64 with at least an associate degree, he said. The current 37.4 percent has grown, but “only incrementally,” in recent years.

To draw more minority undergraduates, public universities have created “smooth pathways” for community college students to transfer at least 30 credits toward their bachelor’s degrees.

Meanwhile, some campuses are recruiting more heavily out of state, both to fill classroom seats and to diversity their student bodies. That’s easier for campuses near a border – Eastern Michigan and Ohio, Wayne State and Windsor, Lake Superior State and Ontario – than for others, Boulus said.

The exceptions are U of M and MSU, both of them at or near their targets for non-Michigan students.

In September, Lake Superior State became the first in the state to announce a “one rate” policy that will charge in-state tuition to every student from out of state, Mexico or Canada. It takes effect in fall 2015.

The university said its “One Rate at Lake State” policy will make its programs “open and affordable to a wider range of students.”

Campus President Tom Pleger said there will be no adverse impact on Michigan residents because “we will not deny admission to any qualified Michigan students.”

The new national study is based on Department of Education data about almost 2,900 colleges and universities. International students were not counted, nor were domestic student who chose not to report their racial or ethnic identities.

In 2012-13, U.S. colleges and universities awarded 2.76 million bachelor’s, master’s, professional and doctoral degrees, with 27 percent “conferred to people of color,” study author Borden wrote.

“Although the numbers continue to rise, there is still a gap in representation compared to the general U.S. population, which as of the 2010 census included 38 percent people of color,” he said.

CNS Director Eric Freedman freelances for “Diverse Issues in Higher Education.”

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