By: Lauren Glass – Contributing Writer
The University of Dayton administration is developing a long-term strategy to draw in more African-American undergraduate students after the enrollment for African-American freshmen this year dropped by more than a third from last year.
Frustrated with the enrollment fluctuation, President Dan Curran addressed faculty and staff at two separate meetings in the fall to express his disappointment with the low numbers. He proposed the development for a long-term strategy to meet the needs of these students, he said.
Curran said he was responding to the outcome of last year’s African-American freshman student enrollment, especially when compared to the statistics of other schools in the area. Fifty-one African-American freshmen enrolled at UD last semester, which is down 29 students from last year, according to UD’s Fall 2013 and 2012 Fact Books.
“For me it was really a call to say we need to have a long-term strategy, we need to do this together, this is important for the university, it’s a part of the university’s mission,” Curran said, reflecting on his address.
The long-term plan
As a part of the strategic plan, each college at UD will develop outreach programs specific to their school that will serve to further build relationships with prospective African-American and minority students, Curran said. The money for these outreach programs will come from within the colleges’ preexisting budgets, he said.
UD’s vice president of enrollment management, Sundar Kumarasamy, said demographic trends such as percentage of high school graduates by race who go on to a selective four-year college or median family income by race are part of the challenges to overcome in order to attract more African-American students.
“What we are trying to go against is a systemic social problem,” Kumarasamy said, explaining how these factors restrict the number of interested African-American students and those who can afford UD. Kumarasamy said these are challenges the university hopes to overcome with its long-term plan.
Current recruiting activity
UD’s efforts are beginning to pay off already, as seen by a 57 percent increase in applications from African-American prospective students from last year, as of Feb. 19, Kumarasamy said. He said this shows the actions the university has taken this year have been effective in raising awareness, interest, and a desire to apply among African-American students, but what’s left is getting those students to enroll.
Some UD students interviewed said they believe part of the reason UD is having difficulty attracting African American students is that the university is recruiting mainly from private schools, and in areas where prospective African-American students are less likely to be found.
Rob Durkle, the assistant vice president of enrollment management, said this is not true, however.
“I would say that probably more of our visits are to public schools, not to private Catholic schools,” he said, adding the office of recruitment tries to send a representative to any high school from which UD has received four or more student applications.
Durkle said representatives have visited all of the Dayton Public Schools, more than 75 schools in Cleveland, 30 schools in Toledo, several schools in Columbus, and many more outside of Ohio.
Although Start High School in Toledo was on Durkle’s list of public schools being visited by a UD representative, a counselor at Start HS, Barbara Filiere, said her school has not been visited or contacted by a UD representative that she is aware of in the last 11 years.
Filiere said Start High School has invited UD to send representatives to their college fair, but received no response.
She said the school has a diverse student population, with around 37 percent of their student body comprised of African-American students.
In response, Durkle said he has evidence UD has visited the school.
“One of our staff that lives in Toledo visits that school and goes to college fairs, so my guess is [Filiere’s] students visited the college fair that we did there or at her school,” he said.
Columbus Africentric Early College, a high school with a 100 percent minority student body, was also listed as one of the public schools in Ohio from which UD recruits. A counselor at Africentric, Georgia “Mama” Patton, said a representative from UD did visit in November for a meeting with students, but no students signed up for or attended the meeting.
Cortney Henderson, college liaison at Dayton Early College Academy (DECA), said UD has maintained a strong recruiting relationship with the students at DECA. She said each year between one and five DECA students typically enroll at UD, with three enrolling this past year. Two of these students are African American and one is biracial, she said.
For students who choose not to go to UD, she said, the reasons are typically cost, or not wanting to go to school in the Dayton area.