SOE News

Henry Frierson moderates panel at national conference on access to higher education

Academic leaders examine race trends
Assess social and financial disparities

In a ballroom filled with more than 150 leaders from universities across the country, diversity was an appropriate theme for the first panel discussion of a four-day conference.

Four panelists addressed those assembled Monday morning in the Carolina Inn about patterns of diversity within U.S. colleges.

The panelists sought to answer the questions asked by moderator Henry Frierson, a UNC professor of educational psychology: "Who are the 18-year-olds of the next decade?" he asked. "Will they be college-ready? And will college be ready for them?"

Walter Allen, a professor at the University of California-Los Angeles, said of the roughly 4,400 students admitted as undergraduates to UCLA this year, only 150 are black - most of whom are scholarship athletes.

He pointed to UNC as a model for enrolling black students. This year the University brought in 470 black students - or 12.3 percent of first-year students.

Archie Ervin, associate provost for diversity and multicultural affairs, attended the conference. He said it's important for UNC to represent all of the people it serves.

"We are a University that is owned by the people of North Carolina," he said. "If we fail to achieve the vision of all people, then we've failed as a University."

Don Nakanishi, director of the Asian American Studies Center at UCLA, also addressed the audience and spoke about the social and financial divide between the upper and lower echelons of Asian Americans.

He said Asian Americans have the largest representation of any ethnic group, including whites, at UCLA - a school that receives more than 40,000 freshman applications and is forbidden by state law to take race into account.

He said this trend of high achievement is visible from coast to coast but is not as lopsided as at UCLA.

Jerry Lucido, vice provost for enrollment policy and management at the University of Southern California - who previously held the same title at UNC - said whites are now fewer, richer and more anxious about admissions.

"Many kindergartners come into the first grade with four years of pre-school on their résumé," he said, quoting an elementary-school principal interviewed by Newsweek magazine.

Marta Tienda, professor of sociology and public affairs at Princeton University, said the Hispanic culture shies away from the college environment.

"It is critical to put the idea of college on the radar screen at an early age," she said.

U.S.-born Hispanics are more likely to graduate from high school than Hispanic immigrants and also are increasing their college presence at a faster rate, she said.