Tuesday, October 24, 2000

Texas gets UC lesson on minority inclusion

By Ben L. Kaufman
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        When Texas educators needed advice on something as big as, well, Texas, they turned to the University of Cincinnati.

        They asked how UC recruited and retained minority students.

        UC responded with professors and administrators who led a pair of daylong command performance workshops for more than 500 Texans, explaining how an improved quality of student life on campus enhanced UC's appeal to minorities and their chances of graduating.

        It wasn't just academic:

  In its fifth academic year, UC's strategic enrollment management plan appears to be improving student life, said Stanley E. Henderson, associate vice president for enrollment management.
  • The number of students mistakenly dropped at the start of each term has been reduced by more than 40 percent.
  • UC scholarships have increased. Instead of reviewing records and correspondence, high school seniors come to campus for the Cincinnatus Scholarship Competition. In 1996, before the change, 1,200 students qualified and 1,100 received money. This year, 2,400 qualified and 1,571 received scholarships.
  • Minority recruitment yielded double-digit increases in admissions during the first years of the plan. Recent numbers are still being tabulated.
        Candor was the order of the day, said Stanley E. Henderson, associate vice president for enrollment management at UC, “and we won them over.”

        Or at least most of their audiences, Patricia Parker, a program director at the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, said. “They did a great job.”

        Federal judges ordered Texans to abandon race and ethnicity as admissions criteria for public colleges and universities.

        Legislators responded by guaranteeing a place in post-secondary education to the top 10 per cent of every Texas high school graduating class.

        Unsure how many minority students would apply but certain that many would be ill-prepared, legislators told every state campus to be ready to identify, attract, enroll and retain students “who reflect the population of Texas.”

        Texas educators followed orders, going beyond aggressive marketing and sophisticated admissions programs to create a uniform, statewide strategic enrollment management plan.

        However, Texans wanted help implementing the plan on wildly differing two and four-year cam puses with receptions ranging from enthusiasm to outright hostility.

        Internet searches led to the Web site where UC described its new strategic enrollment management plan.

        “Theirs was the one that was most closely aligned with what we have come up with,” Ms. Parker said. Also, UC's plan is designed to touch every aspect of student life in all 17 colleges and five campuses.

        “They wanted a model that is currently working and addressing all of the issues,” said Mitchel Livingston, vice president for student affairs and father of the UC plan.

        Presentations introduced strategic enrollment management concepts and UC's model. Instead of telling the Texans what to do, Mr. Henderson said, “We told them, "Here's how one institution has instituted this.'”

        UC's plan is too new to judge its effectiveness and the desired culture still is developing among the colleges, Dr. Livingston said.

        But key elements are:

        • At the ground level, strategy groups address academics, procedures, recruitment and retention.

        • A mid-level planning group hones those efforts.

        • A senior steering committee turns those plans into recommendations for decisions by UC's presidential cabinet.

        Smaller workshops allowed Cincinnatians to elaborate on specifics.

        For instance, a major problem is getting people to “buy in” to any plan, Mr. Henderson said, and advocates must be prepared to answer the omnipresent faculty challenge, “What's in it for us?”

        Finally, Mr. Henderson said, UC's plan requires a lot of research and data and an active appreciation of the fact that open, continuing communication is “one of the toughest things” to maintain.

        Warren D. Huff, a geology professor, told Texans that a key to UC's plan was early informal lunches of the “choir,” those administrators and professors who first embraced Dr. Livingston's strategy for improving student life.

        They drew in others and colleagues increasingly understood how the traditional “sink or swim” approach to freshmen erodes student retention and timely graduations.

        Similarly, faculty are beginning to understand their role in attracting students to UC, Dr. Huff said. It's no longer sufficient to tell the admissions office, “You send the students to us and we'll teach them.”

        Source: University of Cincinnati


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