By PETER HANCOCK
Capitol News Illinois
SPRINGFIELD – The number of African-American students enrolled at public colleges and universities in Illinois has fallen nearly 26 percent in recent years, while enrollment among other minority groups increased.
Those figures were contained in the most recent analysis of underrepresented groups in the state’s higher education system, which was delivered to the Illinois Board of Higher Education on Tuesday.
“We’ve done studies in the past and typically, students have difficulty as far as financing college,” Arthur Sutton, IBHE’s deputy director of diversity and outreach, said of the latest numbers. “Having to work and not being able to afford to go to college, that could be a circumstance that prevents someone from going to college.”
The latest annual report examined the five-year period from 2013 to 2017. During that period, enrollment among African-American students in Illinois fell 25.9 percent, to 54,370 students.
Over that same period, enrollment among Hispanic students grew 6 percent, to 95,167. Asian student enrollment grew 1.9 percent, to 28,745, and enrollment among all other underrepresented groups, including Native Americans, Pacific Islanders and disabled individuals, grew 5.1 percent, to 12,439.
The decline in African-American enrollment was especially sharp in the state’s community colleges, which saw drops of just more than 30 percent. The drop-off was less extensive among undergraduates at public universities, where African-American enrollment fell 14 percent.
The report also detailed wide racial and ethnic disparities when it comes to completing a college education.
Among Illinois’ adult, working-age population – people between the ages of 25 and 64 – only 30.7 percent of blacks, and 20.4 percent of Latinos, have completed at least a two-year associate degree program. Those numbers compare to 72.2 percent of Asians and Pacific Islanders, and 50.3 percent of whites.
The report also cited figures from the Illinois State Board of Education showing blacks and Hispanics lag behind the rest of the state in terms of high school graduation rates: 75 percent for blacks and 80.7 percent for Hispanics, compared to a statewide graduation rate of 85.4 percent.
The report offered some general recommendations to address the disparities, such as supporting additional state funding for programs that target underrepresented student groups, and encouraging schools to offer more academic and financial counseling to those groups in order to help those students complete coursework on a full-time basis in four years.