For Black Students Considering the University of Kentucky, Money Talks

In 2005 the number of black first-year students dropped to 151, down from 256 in 2004. Blacks were only 4 percent of the entering class.

Some members of the state legislature were furious and demanded action. 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.

The strategy appears to have paid off. This year there are 296 black freshmen on campus, almost double the number of a year ago.