College enrollment increased 48 percent for minorities in the 1990s but their educational opportunities continue to trail those of white students, a new report from the American Council on Educa-tion found.
The gap points out the need for increased financial aid and improved preparation for young people entering colleges from urban school districts, William B. Harvey, director of the council's Office of Minorities in Edu-cation, said Monday as the report was released.
The Washington-based council's annual study of minorities in higher education said that while minorities made up 28 percent of the undergraduate population in 2000, they earned only 21.8 percent of the bachelor's degrees awarded that year.
Harvey attributed part of the gap to students from low income households being unable to balance studies with part-time and sometimes nearly full-time employment.
Kai Mumpfield, administrative vice president for the Black Student Union at Auburn Univers-ity, agreed.
''A lot of our students can't stay in school. If they had a choice, they would. But financially they can't afford to stay here,'' she said. ''It comes down to a choice between going to work or going to school.''
A complicating factor, Harvey said, is the lack of qualified faculty, advanced placement courses and educational infrastructures in many of the school systems dispatching minorities to colleges and universities.
Harvey called the report ''an opportunity to improve the relationship between the elementary, secondary and post-secondary community.
"There is a big disjunction between those three and it is certainly in the interest of colleges and universities to pay more attention to the students as they move through the process.''
The report was compiled using federal Department of Education statistics.
Slightly more than 4 million minorities were enrolled in American colleges and universities in 1999, according to those figures.
While the report found increasing minority enrollment at independent colleges and universities, nearly 80 percent of minority students attended a public university in 1999, the report said. That compares with 76 percent of white students.
College enrollment of His-panics grew 68 percent during the 1990s, the report said.
Antonio R. Flores, the president of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities in San Antonio credited the increase to ''sheer demographic growth.''
Looking at the Hispanic student population, Flores agreed with Harvey that there is a need for better college preparation in high school and elementary school.
''We are serving the neediest population in the country with the least amount of federal support and that has to change," Flores said.
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