California State University officials plan to step up their efforts to increase enrollment of African Americans in the 23-campus CSU system after black community leaders and others expressed concerns about low Fall 2004 enrollment numbers.
Enrollment for Fall 2004 show that African Americans made up only 6.9 percent, or about 22,000 students, of the CSU population, which is more than 400,000 students, according to the data provided in a CSU report.
Other groups enrolled in the CSU include Asian Americans, with more than 50,000 students, Mexican Americans with 61,036 students, and other Latinos with 23,114 students, among others. In Fall 2004, there were more than 148,000 white students enrolled.
CSU Chancellor Charles Reed said in a statement in October that the number of African Americans in the CSU was “not high enough,” with an intention to get the message of how significant education is through the help of African-American community leaders.
Reed met Nov. 1 with African-American community leaders in Oakland, as well as various CSU presidents and CSU officials, all focused on spreading the word about how African-American students can enroll in the system and move toward graduation.
Patricia Grizzle Huling, acting director of the Program for Adult College Education and part-time lecturer for the Pan-African Studies Department, said numerous factors affect the numbers of African Americans in the CSU.
She said the feedback she is getting from counselors in Student Outreach and Recruitment Services at CSUN is that the majority of Latinos and African Americans would many times prefer jobs over a degree.
There is a “socioeconomic factor” that creates the numbers, Grizzle Huling said.
At CSUN, about 2,300 African-American students were enrolled in Fall 2004, compared with 4,909 Mexican Americans and 3,212 other Latinos.
She said some forget to consider that many African Americans from inner cities are affected by economics, and that many are pressured to prioritize survival above higher education.
Grizzle Huling said based on her experience working with the Program for Adult College Education, many African-American students also lack the support system within the education community, both in high schools and community colleges.
Society should “reinforce the idea of (getting) a college degree,” she said.
Michael Laurent, assistant professor in education psychology and counseling, said that if some African Americans are the first to get a degree in their family, they might think, “Why be the only one?” before making the choice to go to college.
The lack of support in a person’s family could factor into why an African-American youth decides not to pursue a college degree, he said.
Grizzle Huling said that despite everyday struggles to survive, some people might have an interest in going to a college or university, but other factors could deter them from pursuing or continuing an education, like a difficult commute to and from school.
“One good idea would be to set up satellites (in which we could) bring (the) campus to them, (classes) in a non-traditional way,” Grizzle-Huling said.
Johnie Scott, associate professor in the Pan-African Studies Department and director of its writing program, said the “numbers game” of enrollment is interesting.
He said the United States is currently under a conservative administration, adding that society lacks the activism needed to stand up and create opportunities for minorities.
He also said some have forgotten the demonstrations at CSUN in the 1960s that encouraged the creation of academic departments such as Chicano/a Studies and Pan-African Studies, as well as the Educational Opportunity Program at CSUN.
Laurent said that when he formerly taught at CSU Dominguez Hills, which still has a higher number of African-American students compared to CSUN, there were primarily three large ethnic groups on campus: whites, blacks and Latinos.
“In 2005, compared to the 60s and 70s, we are losing (our activism),” Laurent said.
Laurent said it is a given that many African-Americans rely on a support group.
“I think we need to look more in inner cities,” said Michael Stanley, a graduate student in Cinema and Television Arts. “The CSU should do more outreach and recruitment in (places) like Compton, compared (with) Granada Hills.”
Stanley said that by looking beyond the usual recruitment areas, the CSU system could broaden the scope of its requirements and locations.
Denis Rumould, sophomore electrical engineering major at CSUN, said he sees a reflection of low African-American enrollment in his classes, adding that some African-American students are athletes and he rarely sees them in his classes.
College representatives going to different high schools or community colleges are not enough, he said, adding that he thinks more comprehensive advisement, such as one-on-one sessions with a university counselor, would be more effective for the CSU’s efforts because of the detailed information given.
“I am the only black person in all my math and science classes,” Rumould said. “In high school, a college representative came to my school, but it wasn’t a big thing. I think (student recruiters) should do something to attract (these) students.”
Joanne Angeles can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.