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IOWA CITY — Even as enrollment across Iowa’s public, private and community colleges and universities fell in fall 2021, its institutes of higher education this academic year are educating more students who identify as minorities than last year.
The combined total of 39,120 represents more than a fourfold spike from 30 years ago, in fall 1992, when the state saw a minority enrollment across its campuses of 9,744.
“To put the magnitude of this growth into perspective, the growth of minority students in Iowa colleges and universities has outpaced Iowa’s total population growth over the same time period,” according to a new 2022 student and faculty diversity report Iowa College Aid. “Iowa’s total population increased roughly 14 percent, from 2.81 million to 3.19 million.”
The new report out of Iowa College Aid — the state’s higher education financial aid agency required to, among other things, annually collect data on racial and ethnic diversity across Iowa’s campuses — found racial and ethnic minorities represent 19 percent of today’s total 201,242 enrollment.
In 1992, minorities represented 6 percent of the then 172,435 total enrollment across its public, private and community colleges.
Diversity has become an increasingly important metric for Iowa’s higher education institutions for a variety of reasons — including shifting demographics among Iowa’s high school graduates that project minority populations among the region’s collegiate prospects will continue to swell.
Given colleges and universities also are enrolling a growing number of first-generation students — meaning they’re first in their family to pursue a higher education degree — the campuses also are ramping up scholarship opportunities.
This year’s Iowa College Aid report showed 12 percent of in-state minority students attending college in Iowa were awarded one or more of the following grants: the Iowa Tuition Grant, Iowa Vocational-Technical Tuition Grant or the All Iowa Opportunity Scholarship.
Although that percentage was higher a decade-plus ago, that rate represents an increase more recently. And the percent of those grants awarded to minority students was higher than ever in the 2020-21 academic year, at 20 percent of all Iowa Tuition Grant recipients; 20 percent of Iowa Vocational-Technical Tuition Grant recipients; and 53 percent of All Iowa Opportunity Scholarship recipients.
The Iowa Tuition Grant is designated specifically for private college students, and the vocational-technical grant is designated for those attending community college. But Iowa’s regent universities, too, have noted the need for increased aid including for minority students.
“The cost of education is a huge barrier for lots of families.” University of Iowa President Barbara Wilson said last week during a panel discussion on the future of higher education, noting her campus is doing a few things in response.
“We are furiously raising, aggressively raising money for scholarships and financial aid,” she said. “We can't keep up with the unmet needs that our students come to us with. And that's going to be a theme you're going to hear from Iowa a lot.”
Regarding Iowa’s college and university faculty, 1,924 — or 13 percent of the total 14,803 full- or part-time faculty — identified as minorities in fall 2021. That’s a slight uptick from last year’s 1,907 of a higher 15,118 total.
In a recent regent university diversity report, the campuses showed marked increases among minority faculty — with the UI reporting 15 percent of its workforce identified as minority in October 2021, compared with 10 percent in September 2011.
At Iowa State University, 17 percent of its workforce identified as minority in the fall, compared with 12 percent a decade ago; and the University of Northern Iowa reported a faculty-minority percentage of 13 percent in the fall, compared with 10 percent in 2011.
When comparing their percent of minority full-time tenured and tenure-track faculty with university peers, however, only ISU ranks above the 25.9 percent average of its peers at 26.3 percent.
UI’s faculty is 22.1 percent minority, compared with their peer average of 25.5 percent. UNI’s faculty is 20.7 percent minority, compared with their peer average of 24.3 percent.
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