In a challenging time for universities around the country, this year's Hispanic Business ranking of the nation's top MBA programs and law schools for Hispanics shows strengthening commitment to diversity at institutions that are playing an increasingly critical role in advancing the U.S. Hispanic economy.
Amid continuing cuts in state funding – and plans calling for little extra federal money – institutions on this year's list are using a variety of programs to continue to score high in the number of Hispanic students enrolled, percentage of full-time Hispanic faculty, services for Hispanic students, Hispanic student recruitment efforts and retention rates, quality of education, and reputation.
"We work very hard to make minority students realize within a very short time of being here, that we want them here and that we are going to work to make it a good experience for them," says William Powers, dean of the University of Texas at Austin's School of Law, which retains its top law school rank for the third consecutive year.
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That attention to diversity also can be seen at Stanford University's Graduate School of Business, which moves to the No. 1 spot in this year's MBA list, up from the No. 3 post it has held for the past two years. Many of the other schools in this year's list emphasize the same approach and also place high on national rankings such as U.S. News & World Report's list of best colleges, assessed on a variety of criteria including curriculum, enrollment, faculty, facilities, and student body.
Diversity efforts at both undergraduate and graduate programs around the country appear to be showing results. The most recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics finds that Hispanic enrollment rose to 10 percent in 2000, up from 4 percent in 1976. Its most recent statistics found 3 percent of all U.S. faculty in colleges and universities were Hispanic in 1999.
Still, the numbers remain proportionally low, and potential challenges remain to affirmative action policies. Overall, officials at more than 150 graduate schools contacted by Hispanic Business say last year's U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the University of Michigan Law School's use of race as a factor in admissions has had little effect, though some still expect continued court challenges to policies. For many schools, recent state budget cuts have had more of an impact.
"The more important factor is the financial aid factor," says Donald J. Weidner, dean of the Florida State University School of Law in Tallahassee (No. 10 on this year's list). "What's happening at our school is that tuition is increasing to cover costs and out-of-state tuition is increasing dramatically. It makes it much harder for us to recruit minority students from out of state."
In addition, the school lost about $1 million in state-funded minority scholarships. Mr. Weidner attributes the loss to a combination of a state budget crunch and the creation of two new law schools with predominantly minority admissions. The school is trying to make up the shortfall through fundraising and combining smaller scholarships with job opportunities for students at local law firms.