Press Release - USM Plan to Improve Minority Achievement at Institutions Approved by Regents

December 14, 2001

USM Plan to Improve Minority Achievement at Institutions Approved by Regents

The University System of Maryland (USM) Board of Regents approved a plan to improve the enrollment and retention rates of minorities, as well as increase the level of representation of minority graduate students, faculty, and staff at all institutions in the USM. The plan, approved at the Board's December 7 meeting, will be implemented by the System's 13 institutions next spring. USM institutions will develop their own initiatives based on the plan, all of which are expected to contain specific goals and benchmarks for measuring progress.

While minority enrollment and six-year graduation rates have been rising at many USM campuses in recent years, the Regents' Minority Achievement Plan describes steps the System and its institutions will take in response to Maryland's changing demographics and the need to educate a diverse workforce. The plan calls for better recruitment and retention of underrepresented minority undergraduates; increased enrollment and graduation rates of minority students in graduate and professional degree programs; and increased numbers of minority faculty and staff members.

Nathan A. Chapman Jr., chairman of the USM Board of Regents, said the plan's annual measurements of progress provide the accountability that is necessary for success.

"It's one thing to talk about a diversified student population enjoying full access to our campuses, but it's more effective to make that commitment, then check our progress from year to year to find out what works and what doesn't," Chapman said. "Our strategic plan anticipates changing demographics, and now our institutions are better prepared to respond to that."

The Regents' Minority Achievement Plan is an outgrowth of the USM's strategic plan. The USM in 2010: Responding to the Challenges that Lie Ahead states that not only will Maryland's college-age population (15-24 year-olds) experience a surge in growth (the so-called "baby boom echo"), but that its minority population will account for two-thirds of that surge. (The strategic plan is available online at /10yrplan/index.html.)

"The State's non-white population is expected to increase by almost 300,000 over the next 10 years," the plan says. "Between 2000 and 2010, the number of traditional college-age minorities will grow by 32 percent - compared to a 24 percent increase in the number of non-minorities."

Overall, Maryland's 15-24 year-old segment is expected to surge by 171,000 or 27 percent during the next decade. The USM expects about 7,600 more full-time traditional undergraduates in that span.

USM Chancellor Donald N. Langenberg called the plan "a diligent, responsible way of meeting the needs of Maryland's changing and growing population. The payoff is generation after generation of talented workers who want to stay in Maryland, making it as dynamic and forward-looking as any state in the nation. It's good public policy because every citizen, minority or majority, benefits."

In October 1999, the State of Maryland entered a partnership agreement with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) for the purposes of improving the educational opportunities for African Americans in Maryland's public institutions of higher learning and ensuring compliance with the State's obligations under federal law. Although the Minority Achievement Plan was not required by the agreement, the measurements in the plan will be used to report progress in meeting the goals of the OCR agreement.

According to the Minority Achievement Plan, beginning in 10th grade, Maryland minorities will be offered college-readiness programs, community outreach programs, and mentoring opportunities. They also will experience new recruitment strategies, as well as services targeting specific disciplines. Once they matriculate, they will be eligible for online courses, mentoring, and specialized academic advising. At the graduate level, career development will be emphasized. Institutions will also hold an annual conference on recruitment and retention, sharing the "best practices" for achieving the goals outlined in the plan.

Charles R. Middleton, USM vice chancellor for Academic Affairs, said the plan has the flexibility to allow each institution to develop its own approach to raising the numbers of minorities who see attainment of a college degree as a valid option.

"Beginning next spring, students will see our institutions taking steps to make college a reality for them," he said. "There will be more bridge programs designed to show high school students what college is like, and more opportunities to engage in campus life once they start. At the graduate level, there will be an increased focus on career opportunities for minority students, and more research collaborations with faculty. Over time, our campuses will look more like Maryland as a whole."


Chris Hart
Phone: 301/445-2739