Iowa’s three regent universities this fall have the most diverse student populations in the state’s history, according to an enrollment report presented to the Iowa Board of Regents on Wednesday.
The combined number of racial or ethnic minority students at University of Iowa, Iowa State University and University of Northern Iowa rose 8.2 percent – or by 670 students – from 8,210 in fall 2012 to 8,880 this fall, according to the report. That represents 11.6 percent of the total fall 2013 enrollment.
“This is the largest number of racial/ethnic minority students ever at the public universities,” according to the report.
When looking just at undergraduate students, the increase in racial or ethnic minority students from 2012 to 2013 was even greater at 10.7 percent. Iowa residents accounted for about 57 percent of the public universities’ minority students, the report indicates.
At the start of the fall semester, 851 new freshmen at the public universities were in-state racial or ethnic minorities, representing 21.5 percent of the state’s public high school graduates who were minorities and 27.9 percent of the ACT test takers who were minorities.
UI officials reported that 12.9 percent of the enrolled student body this fall identified as racial or ethnic minorities – or 17.1 percent of the entering class.
U.S. multicultural enrollment at ISU reached 11.1 percent of its total enrollment this fall, a new record and an increase over last year, according to the report. ISU’s total international student enrollment this fall also reached record levels at 3,797 – up 287 students over last fall.
Total U.S. multicultural and international enrollment at ISU represented 22.52 percent of the student body this fall, topping the previous record of 21.79 in fall 2012.
UNI’s enrollment of minority students this fall remained steady at 8.1 percent of the total student body, according to the report.
Georgina Dodge, UI chief diversity officer and associate vice president, said she thinks the regent university enrollment figures are mirroring national population trends.
“Look at the demographics of the country – we are going to be recruiting more minority and international students,” Dodge said. “And to me that’s a good thing. We want to have a very educated populace.”
Part of educating students, she said, involves creating a diverse environment with people of different backgrounds with different skill sets.
“I think it’s benefiting everyone is some significant ways,” Dodge said. “All our students are now operating in a more diverse environment, which is forcing them to focus on new and different skills. And all of those skills will be helpful to them as they get out into the world.”
Dodge identified several reasons Iowa’s universities might be attractive to minorities, including its reputation for being safe and without the distractions of a larger city. She predicted the state campuses will become increasingly diverse and said it’s important the universities rise to the challenge.
“How can we best engage a more diverse student body,” she said. “How can they learn from each other and how can they be social together in meaningful ways?”