Minority students now make up the majority of college undergraduate students in New Jersey.
College officials said the increase in Hispanic, black and Asian students reflects both the increasing diversity of the state and increased efforts by colleges to recruit more nonwhite students so that their enrollment reflects the state's population.
But while overall diversity has grown, the racial and cultural makeup of individual colleges still depends on several factors, including location, cost and competitiveness. Two South Jersey colleges, Richard Stockton and Rowan, are among the least-diverse in the state.
College officials said they do not set quotas for racial diversity, but do take steps to encourage minority students to enroll. College affirmative-action policies are under review by the U.S. Supreme Court.
An analysis by The Press of Atlantic City shows that the shift in minority enrollment reflects the changing diversity of the state's K-12 public schools. While the population of white and black students has shrunk over the past five years, the number of Hispanic and Asian students has grown.
Statewide, 51 percent of students in the state's public schools were white in 2011-12, according to state Department of Education data, followed by 16 percent black, 23 percent Hispanic and 9 percent Asian. About 1 percent also identify either as Hawaiian native, American Indian or of two or more races.
Statewide, 49 percent of college students in fall 2011 identified as white, with 14 percent black, 17 percent Hispanic and 8 percent Asian. An additional 8 percent did not identify a race.
Asian students in particular are often over-represented in highly competitive colleges. Asians made up almost 18 percent of the population at Princeton in 2011-12, which draws an international applicant pool. Students of Asian descent also made up 22 percent of students at both Rutgers University and the New Jersey Institute of Technology.
Rutgers Vice President of Enrollment Management Courtney McAnuff noted that Asians as a group in New Jersey have the highest average SAT scores and the cities near the Rutgers campuses have large Asian populations, so the college is well known and convenient. He also noted that the top three countries for international students at Rutgers are China, South Korea and India.
While the minority population at Richard Stockton College in Galloway Township has increased during the past five years from 20 percent to almost 25 percent in 2011-12, its enrollment, along with that of Rowan University and Ramapo College, was more than 70 percent white.
Stockton Dean of Enrollment Management John Iacovelli said because there is no large urban center in the immediate area, they have to recruit more from larger cities.
"Atlantic City and Pleasantville are not like Camden or Jersey City or Newark," he said. "We are still underpopulated with minorities, but it reflects the area."
While Atlantic County is more diverse, the school population in Ocean County, the second-highest recruitment area for Stockton, is almost 70 percent white. Cape May County, while small, is almost 80 percent white.
Socioeconomic, family and cultural factors also play a role. Many minority students are the first in their families to attend college, and data show that Hispanic and black students are somewhat more likely to start at a less expensive community college.
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