If you are a student at a historically black college or university, looking around your classroom or on the yard hoping to see a familiar brown face is probably never an issue, but for students at colleges and universities where African American enrollment is now steadily declining, it is definitely a concern.
Larissa Lincoln, a senior sociology major at the University of Washington knows what it is like to feel alienated or alone on campus. “Sometimes when I’m in a lecture there will be 200 people and I can count about six or seven black students. It’s very noticeable walking around that there is not enough blacks being admitted to college.”
After the 2003 Supreme Court decision required schools like the University of Michigan to change their admittance procedure and evaluate students not based on their minority status, but individually, Michigan is now reporting the smallest class of African American freshmen in 15 years.
Many state universities in California, Georgia and much of the Midwest have also noticed a significant decline when it comes to admitting blacks. Enrollment for freshmen at the University of Georgia was down by 26 percent, 29 percent for OhioState and 32 percent at the University of Illinois’ Urbana-Champaign.
While there is no single explanation for the low numbers, a few factors should be taken into consideration. According to Jason S. Mironov, President of the University of Michigan’s student body, the process for getting accepted to Michigan has become more challenging. “The application became significantly harder. Unless you were absolutely sure you wanted to go to Michigan, many students were reluctant to spend a great deal of time with the application.”
Rising tuition costs also play a role in discouraging lower-income students from applying and out-of-state fees for many schools seem almost unattainable for many students. Affirmative action laws also have their place in the decline of black students. Many students feel that if it weren’t for affirmative action or other guidelines set to help minorities, then they would not consider applying to more prestigious schools. Lincoln is one of those students. “I was in a program in high school that helped minorities get to go college, if it wasn’t for that I’m not sure if UW (the University of Washington) would have even considered me.”