According to enrollment statistics released by Ithaca College this month, the number of minority students increased 18.1 percent since last year.
Of the five minority groups included in the report, black non-Hispanic students was the only group to drop, decreasing 17.3 percent from last year.
Between 2006 and 2007, the number of Hispanic students increased by 60.4 percent, the number of Asian and Pacific Islander students increased by 15.9 percent, the number of American Indian and Alaskan Native students increased 10 percent and the number of white, non-Hispanic students increase by 19.6 percent.
Larry Metzger, dean of enrollment planning, said he was generally pleased with the numbers and does not see the decline in black students as a major concern for the college.
“I don’t think a one-year difference can be identified as a trend,” he said. “With the exception of black students, it’s been a banner year for us.”
Some members of the college community are more concerned with the drop in black student enrollment numbers.
Sean Eversley-Bradwell, assistant professor in the Center for the Study of Culture, Race and Ethnicity, said the college’s location and predominantly white student population have contributed to the decline.
“Let’s be real. We’re an elite, private Northeast institution that costs anywhere between $42,000 and $45,000 a year,” he said. “Based on that alone, you’re cutting off a large portion of the population.”
Eversley-Bradwell noted the college’s efforts to recruit more minority students, particularly African-American students, by instituting the Center for Culture, Race and Ethnicity and the Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship program. He said by creating these types of opportunities, diversity at the college should be increasing.
“There has been a steady increase in minority numbers at [the college],” he said. “But we can always do better.”
Last year, Metzger said the college brought in 52 first-year freshmen black students — the college’s highest number since it made diversity a priority.
“Increasing diversity at the college is one of the top goals in the institutional plan,” he said. “We have developed partnerships with schools, agencies and programs that we think will attract students to the campus.”
Senior Tyrell Lashley, a minority student and spokesperson for the African-Latino Society (ALS), said the college’s efforts have made a difference and that he does not see the drop in black student enrollment as a major problem.
“I think [the college] goes above and beyond to attract minority students,” he said. “But there’s always more they can be doing.”
Lashley suggested continuing outreach programs for minority students and increasing faculty and staff diversity. Lashley said the financial aid and programs the college offered him helped convince him to come to the college, even though it was not his first choice school.
Cornell Woodson, a minority student and member of ALS, said it is still intimidating to minority students to attend a college in a small, predominantly white town.
“They see this sea of white faces and think, I’m just going to be a speck,” he said. “I don’t think Ithaca College appeals to black students. I don’t think they can see themselves studying here for four years and being happy.”
Woodson said the way students and people in general view diversity also causes minority students to feel ostracized, not only on the Ithaca College campus, but on campuses across the country.
“I think diversity is viewed in very rigid lines. It’s very much a black and white view,” he said. “To me that’s sad because I think compared to other schools, we are very diverse in other ways.”
The college’s overall minority enrollment numbers are in line with members of the Associated New American Colleges (ANAC), a national consortium of 21 small to mid-size independent colleges and universities that offer liberal arts and professional education.
Eversley-Bradwell said though the decrease in black students was a problem both at the college and other institutions, the increase in overall minority enrollment is encouraging and shows the college’s administrators are making an effort.
Terry Martinez, director of student engagement and multicultural affairs, said the increase in overall minority student enrollment has been steady for years.
“We’re definitely headed in the right direction,” she said.
Metzger said the college’s Multicultural Ambassadors, who help prospective international students become part of the college’s community, are part of the reason the number of minority students has increased this year.
“They are doing a really significant service for the institution,” he said.
Junior Courtney Clemente, a Martin Luther King Jr. scholar, said she has noticed an increase in diversity on campus since her freshman year.
“Ithaca has an aggressive recruitment tactic with organizations such as Inside Look, OMA [The Office of Multicultural Affairs] and the Summer Institute,” she said.
Eversley-Bradwell said extending these programs will help, but an immediate shift cannot be expected.
“Any efforts made by the college will have some sort of impact on [minority student enrollment],” he said. “It won’t happen overnight. It just takes some time.”