"I think there will continue to be a need for domestic diversity in areas where there's not a need for combined international and cultural experience."
For now, graduate schools are hard pressed to supply that need. Overall, Hispanic graduate enrollment in business, engineering, law, and medicine lingers in the low single digits while undergraduate representation has declined at some schools since the demise of affirmative-action admissions. Yet campus diversity has long been considered part of educating students about their world, exposing them to all segments of society in preparation for a rainbow of co-workers, customers, and competitors.
Among the most recent developments:
•Following a statewide referendum banning affirmative-action admissions, the University of Michigan announced that it will stress admissions that consider geographic origin, low income, being the first in the family to attend college, and graduating from low-funded high schools. It also released preliminary enrollment figures for 2007-2008 freshmen, the year under the voter-mandated ban; minorities make up 10.8 percent of the class, compared with 12 percent to 15 percent in previous years.
•Texas A&M University announced a partnership with nine community colleges to guarantee transfers for students meeting certain criteria. Hispanic enrollment at community colleges increased 40 percent from 2000 to 2005, according to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. As well, the school has opened recruiting centers in San Antonio, south Texas, and other cities, and now offers scholarships for first-in-the-family students, although ethnicity is not a criterion.
•The University of California, Riverside emerged as the most diverse in the UC system, one of the nation's largest state-university systems. Undergraduate Hispanic enrollment exceeded 25 percent last fall, compared with less than 15 percent systemwide. School officials credit the high numbers to programs such as community outreach, summer seminars for high schoolers, and remedial math and English courses for freshmen.
•And, in June, the House of Representatives unveiled a Diversity and Innovation Caucus specifically targeting remedies to address a lack of representation of minorities and women in science, technology, engineering, and math fields. The caucus, founded by Rep. Silvestre Reyes of Texas, is expected to develop policy that creates early outreach and awareness of careers in these fields, high-quality math and science instruction, and financial aid and support to colleges enrolling and graduating students from underrepresented population groups.
The intent behind the congressional caucus mirrors the goals of the Council of Graduate Schools, whose membership includes more than 480 U.S. and Canadian universities.
In April at the Library of Congress, the council released a report, "Graduate Education: The Backbone of American Competitiveness and Innovation," calling for renewed commitment to U.S. graduate education for all students, not only Hispanics. Other nations' education systems are quickly catching up to the United States in their emphasis on research and the number of graduate degrees they award, the report warned. The ultimate effect: If higher education doesn't change, the nation could fall behind on the world economic scene.
Besides increased funding for education programs and financial aid, the council recommended:
•Forming more collaborations such as advisory boards among government, business, and colleges to keep up with market changes and to encourage entrepreneurship;
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