Catholic College in Wisconsin Aims to Boost Student Racial Diversity

Edgewood College in Madison, Wisconsin, is a small, liberal arts institution founded in 1927 by the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa. Like many Catholic colleges, historically, the institution has been predominantly white. In 2000 the college made a commitment to increase racial diversity. That year it held a minority recruitment fair, but only one student showed up.

But the college did not give up. It increased its recruitment efforts at high schools with large minority populations and instituted a Community Scholars program that offers full-tuition scholarships to local low-income students. Since 2000 the college has achieved some success in boosting minority enrollments. The number of black students has increased from 29 in 2000 to 85 today, a rise of nearly 200 percent. Blacks now make up slightly over 3 percent of the student body. The number of Hispanic students has increased from 27 in 1980 to 95 today. The retention rate — those freshmen who enroll as sophomores the next year — is higher for minority students than it is for white students.