Minorities a quarter of Eastern’s population


2014 Enrollment by Race/Ethnicity

Roberto Hodge, Multicultural Editor

Minorities now make up 25 percent of Eastern’s population despite an overall enrollment drop of 9 percent since the last school year.

With the current enrollment at 8,913, minorities make up 2,220 of those figures.

Mona Davenport, the director of minority affairs, said the numbers may be lower, but their percentage is higher as a result of how active their recruitment is.

“We’ve never had this many students of color at the institution. I think any diversity that we bring to the community is awesome,” Davenport said.

Davenport said the department is active with recruitment and retention of minority students with events such as Access Granted, which allows minority students from high schools to come for a weekend and live on campus.

“We just work extremely hard to try and make sure that we recruit at the same level as (previous years),” Davenport said.

However, the Eastern Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander demographic are the smallest demographic on campus, but they were not counted in the census until 2011.

“My hope is to have minority population equal to the state, and diversity helps with inclusion,” Davenport said.

Davenport said the department has put several initiatives in place to assist with minority recruitment and retention such as student ambassadors who will make calls to prospective students. She said the department also does a good job in reaching out to other institutions she considers diversified at a high school level.

Davenport said the admissions recruiters visit many different types of schools in Chicago and in other areas. She said all the departments are supportive in all aspects of recruitment of minority students.

“Diversity is progress. It’s not just race, it can be gender, socioeconomic status—it can be a plethora of things,” Davenport said.

Overall, minorities have increased by 6 percent since the previous year.

Davenport said her job is to work with many diversified people from many different backgrounds. Her department covers all ethnic minorities, but also those who are low-income and first generation college students.

There has also been a lack of minority students going into study abroad, so the department is also trying to push them into trying the program out, Davenport said.

As far as the enrollment drop, Davenport said high school graduates may be opting out of community college, which is a sentiment shared with Blair Lord, provost and vice president of academic affairs.

Lord said there were many reasons as to why Eastern’s base enrollment has declined and of the reasons is essentially because the university’s history has always been tied into teaching, which is how the university formed.

“If the largest part of your market, which for Eastern, is teacher preparation, becomes seriously depressed—you have a problem,” Lord said.

Lord noted a decline in high school graduates and with those numbers down, community college is also at a decline. State funding and financial aide funding in Illinois has not been good, as well as more competitors are all factors in Eastern’s enrollment drop, said Lord.

“It’s a perfect storm of factors that affect Eastern, there isn’t just one root cause here it’s a series of challenges,” Lord said.

Lord said many of the directional schools (Eastern, Western, etc.) are facing some of the same issues of Eastern, which could be due to a population decline in the Midwest.

Eventually, the enrollment will be stabilized, but these are the worse figures he has seen in his 13 years of working at Eastern, Lord added.

In order to help stabilize enrollment, they brought in a higher education consulting firm, Noel-Levitz. They have made suggestions to Eastern on how to improve their financial aid awarding, website presence and a revamp of systems.

Lord said Eastern has done what many other universities have done and direct most of their resources into financial aid support to students, which he explained has softened the decline in enrollment.

Regarding Eastern’s overall enrollment drop this year with minority and international students percentages up, Lord said these changes are taking fruition because universities are recognizing international students on a national level.

Lord said international students rely on word of mouth when it comes to choosing a university. With that being said, Eastern’s minority increase is a natural occurrence because the nation is slowly becoming more multicultural and diverse.

Minority students are projected to surpass white students beginning in 2015, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics.

      Roberto Hodge (@BertoHodge) can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].