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By The Skanner News | The Skanner News
Published: 03 September 2008

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) _ Minority enrollment increased at Oregon's seven colleges and universities over the past decade, but just barely, and not as fast as the state's general and high school populations.

The number of minority faculty at the universities also increased only marginally, by 1 percentage point to 9 percent in 2007-08.

The number of black professors actually declined from 64 to 59.

Between 1998 and 2007, the percentage of racial and ethnic minority students in the Oregon University System climbed from 12 percent to 14 percent, while the overall state minority population grew from 14 percent to 18 percent.

The university figures do not include international students, who account for 5 percent of enrollment or the 1 percent of students who report being of more than one race.

By comparison, the minority population among the 38,000 seniors graduating from Oregon high schools and feeding the universities grew to 21 percent in 2007, up from 14 percent in 2001.

Members of the State Board of Higher Education expressed concern about the minimal progress at a meeting Friday and said that increasing the diversity among faculty and students will be a higher priority.

Board Vice President James Francesconi said that expanding diversity must become a part of the performance evaluation for Chancellor George Pernsteiner and the university presidents.

"We need the presidents to engage on this," Francesconi said. "It has to be in your job description."

Latinos have the lowest representation in the state university system.

While they made up 10 percent of the state population and 11 percent of high school graduates in 2007, they accounted for only 4 percent of the students in Oregon universities.

Asian Americans, by contrast, composed 4 percent of the general population and 5 percent of high school graduates, but represented 7 percent of university students.

American Indians made up slightly less than 2 percent of the university enrollments, unchanged from a decade earlier, while accounting for about 2 percent of the general and high school graduate populations.

Blacks composed about 2 percent of university students and of the state population and 3 percent of high school graduates.

Portland State University, the state's largest university, was the most diverse, with 17 percent of its students from minority groups. Eastern Oregon University had the smallest minority population at 10 percent.

University officials described numerous strategies they've tried to increase minority enrollment. Several said they had modest success using financial incentives to attract minority professors.

Angelo Gomez, director of affirmative action at Oregon State University, said studies show that offering work that engages minority professors, such as an ethnic studies post, and searching for candidates outside the normal hiring channels also have proved successful.

But, he said, there are "strong head winds" built into the university hiring system.

"There is a pretty entrenched pattern with respect to faculty diversity that is really hard to break," he said

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