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Assessing Black Enrollment Progress Over the Past Quarter-Century at the Nation's Highest-Ranked Universities:

In the mid- to late 1960s the nation's major colleges and universities made strong commitments to increase the racial diversification of their student bodies. In almost all cases significant progress also was made in the 1970s. Over the past quarter-century the vast majority of our highest-ranked colleges and universities have continued to show gains.

Since 1980 the black student percentage of the total enrollments at 18 of the nation's 26 highest-ranked universities has continued to rise. Many of the largest increases in black student enrollments since 1980 have occurred at southern universities where initial integration efforts proceeded more slowly in the early years of affirmative action. But efforts to increase racial diversity accelerated throughout the 1980s at many of these southern institutions. For example, during the 1980 to 2004 period, black student enrollments had increased most dramatically at Emory University in Atlanta where blacks now make up 9.2 percent of the student body an increase of 6.3 percentage points since 1980. At Vanderbilt University in Nashville, the black percentage of the student body increased from 2.9 percent to 7.4 percent.

Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, also showed significant improvement. In 1980 blacks were 5.1 percent of the student body at Duke. Today blacks are 10.8 percent of the student body at Duke. At Rice University in Houston black enrollments have increased from 3.6 percent in 1980 to 6.8 percent today. This occurred during a period when, from 1996 to 2003, race-sensitive admissions programs at Rice were suspended due to the Hopwood ruling in Texas.

The percentage of black students has dropped at seven of the nation's 26 leading institutions. But at four of these seven institutions, the black percentage of total enrollments has decreased by less than one percentage point.

The most disappointing data comes from Northwestern University. There, black enrollments have dropped from 8.2 percent in 1980 to 5.5 percent in 2004. Yet there are signs of improvement. Black first-year enrollments at Northwestern this year are 6.4 percent of the freshman class.

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