University of Colorado Faces a Conundrum in How to Increase Racial Diversity on Campus

Over the past year the University of Colorado at Boulder has been plagued with a series of racial incidents. Currently blacks make up only 1.6 percent of the student body on the Boulder campus. The university hopes that increasing the number of black students on campus will create an atmosphere in which blacks are more comfortable.

But the demographics of the state of Colorado, coupled with the selective admissions requirements of the university, make it extremely difficult for the institution to significantly increase the number of blacks in its student body. In 2005, in the entire state of Colorado, there were only 289 African-American high school seniors who had achieved the necessary qualifications for admission to the University of Colorado. Of these, only 120 black students applied to the university and only 41 eventually enrolled. Improving the public school system to increase the number of black students who qualify for admission is a long-term process.

With out-of-state tuition currently pegged at $21,000, very few black students from outside the state apply to the University of Colorado. This year blacks make up about 1 percent of the nearly 8,800 out-of-state students on the Boulder campus. In order to attract more black students from out of state, the university would be obligated to significantly increase scholarship money for these students, an effort that would not be popular with in-state taxpayers.

The only other alternative would be to lower admissions standards to the university, an alternative that is not popular with most segments of the campus community. 

Copyright © 2006. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. All rights reserved.