A Boost in Available Financial Aid Made the Difference in Increasing Black First-Year Enrollments at the University of Kentucky

In 2005 black first-year enrollments at the University of Kentucky dropped by 44 percent. Black students, black faculty, and African-American members of the state legislature demanded that action be taken to increase racial diversity on campus. A task force was created to examine why black enrollments had dropped off.

It was presumed that black students were avoiding the University of Kentucky because of a perceived hostile racial environment on campus. But university officials did their homework. They contacted scores of black students who had been accepted to the university but enrolled elsewhere to see why they had chosen other schools. Only a handful of black students said the campus climate was a factor. The overwhelming reason that black students didn’t enroll was because they received more attractive financial aid awards at other institutions.

The University of Kentucky responded by infusing more money into its Diversity Scholarship program. These grants are available to minority and low-income students. In 2006 black first-year enrollments doubled to 296.

This year there are 260 black freshmen on campus. But the drop in the number of black students is largely attributed to an overall drop in first-year enrollments. Blacks make up 6.6 percent of the entering class. African Americans make up 7 percent of the population in Kentucky.