Minority Recruitment and Retention Problems and Initiatives
in Higher Education: Implication for Technology Teacher Education
Gene L. Roth
Recruiting and retaining minority students are growing
concerns for leaders of colleges and universities across the
United States. For a brief period, universities experienced
steady progress at opening doors of higher education to
minority students. For example, from 1960 to 1975, the
number of black students in higher education rose from
150,000 students to approximately 1 million (Green, 1989).
Unfortunately, enrollments of black students have remained
at a plateau. With the exception of Asian students,
participation rates of other minority groups in higher
education have also remained stagnant. Further, the
retention rates are low for minority students who have
chosen to attend college. A recent report by the National
Association of Independent Colleges and Universities found
that 54% of Hispanic students and 63% of black students who
had enrolled in four-year colleges had dropped out for good
within six years (cited in Wilson, 1990). Although
university leaders have confronted the problems of
recruitment and retention on a national level, the issues
have not been resolved. A growing chasm is reflected in the
rates of participation of white and minority students in
higher education (Carter & Wilson, 1989).
Technology teacher educators are also concerned about
the recruitment and retention of minority students. As a
profession, technology education needs minority teachers
who can serve as role models to the increasing numbers of
minority students in American schools. Further, minority
leaders are greatly needed to strengthen the technology
teaching field and its respective professional associations.
Increasing the number of minority teachers in technology
education should lead to positive results in recruiting
minority students for technology education programs
(Westbook, 1986). These are desirable goals, but what
actions are needed by technology teacher educators to make
sustained progress toward them? The purpose of this article
is to review problems and initiatives associated with
minority recruitment and retention in higher education and
discuss implications for technology teacher education.
THE GROWING IMPORTANCE OF MINORITY RECRUITMENT AND RETENTION
Presidents of universities and deans of colleges of
education have depicted minority recruitment and retention
as vital issues for higher education. Demographic
projections have indicated that an increasing percentage of
students in elementary and secondary schools will be
minority students. A recent report sponsored by the Western
-Interstate Commission for Higher Education and the College
Board, The Road to College: Educational Progress by Race
and Ethnicity (1991), stated that the proportion of
graduates who are minority group members is expected to
increase from 22% in 1986 to 28% in 1995 (cited in
Evangelauf, 1991). The study showed that all of our
southern perimeter states, from California to North
Carolina, project proportions of graduates who are minority
group members to be above 30%. Unfortunately, those
minority groups are not currently well represented and are
not expected to be comparably represented in the near future
in the teaching ranks. For example, data presented by
TEACHER MAGAZINE listed 93% of the beginning teachers of
1990 as white (cited in Work-America, 1990, May). This
statistic is a marked contrast to the expectation that one
third of the U.S. population will be people of color by the
year 2000 (McCubbin, 1990).
Many technology teacher education departments desire
to increase the number of minority students in their
preservice programs--yet they are struggling for meaningful
ways to accomplish this goal. The literature base on
minority recruitment and retention lacks studies that might
connect the topic directly to technology teacher education.
However, technology teacher educators can begin to sense the
magnitude of the issue by examining the expanding body of
literature regarding minority participation in higher
A book published by the American Council on Education,
Minorities on Campus: A Handbook for Enhancing Diversity
(Green, 1989, p. 2-3), presented the following data related
to minority participation on campuses.
Higher education's pool of students is increasingly made up
of minority youth. Of our 25 largest cities and
metropolitan areas, half of the public school students come
from minority groups. In 1985, 20 percent of the school-age
population was minority; in 2020, that figure will rise to
College attendance by black students has slowed; the gap in
participation between whites and blacks is growing. Between
1967 and 1975, the percentage of black high school graduates
24 years old or younger that were enrolled in or had
completed one or more years of college rose from 35 percent
to 48 percent; over the same period, the corresponding rate
for whites grew much more slowly from 51 to 53 percent.
However, between 1975 and 1985, while the college
participation rate for white youths continued to climb to 55
percent, the rate for blacks dropped to 44 percent. Recentl
released figures indicate that, in 1986, the rate for blacks
rose to 47 percent.
The rate of college attendance for Hispanic youths has
declined in the last decade. While the number of Hispanic
students enrolled in college has increased significantly
since 1975, the rate of attendance declined slightly between
1975 and 1985, from 51 percent to 47 percent.
College attendance by American Indian students lags far
behind black and Hispanic attendance. A recent report by
the Cherokee Nation found that only 55 percent of U.S.
Indians graduate from high school, and of these, only 17
percent go on to college.
Minority students are concentrated in community colleges.
In the fall of 1986, over 55 percent of the Hispanics and
just over 43 percent of the blacks attending college were
enrolled in two-year institutions. Few of these students
ever go on to attend or graduate from four-year
Black and Hispanic students are far less likely than white
students to complete a degree. Among 1980 high school
seniors who enrolled in college, 21 percent of the white
students, compared with 10 percent of the black students
and 7 percent of the Hispanic students, earned a bachelor's
degree to higher degree by spring 1986.
Blacks attending historically black colleges and
universities (HBCUs) are more likely to complete a degree
than those attending predominantly white institutions. In
1984-85, HBCUs awarded 34 percent of baccalaureate degrees
earned by blacks while enrolling 18 percent of black
As one ponders the preceding information, questions
surface in the search for remedies to these concerns: Why is
the participation gap increasing between minority and white
students on our campuses? Why are attrition rates higher
for minority students? What efforts have achieved success at
increasing minority recruitment and retention? Leaders of
our universities are struggling to find solutions to these
A study conducted by the American Council on Education
titled "Campus Trends 1989" found that a vast majority of
colleges are attempting to increase minority recruitment and
retention on their campuses. Despite the efforts of these
institutions, nearly two-thirds of their leaders rated their
abilities to recruit black and Hispanic students as only
fair or poor. Senior administrators at approximately 370
institutions participated in this annual survey (cited in
Magner, 1989, July 26). Some of the administrators who took
part in the survey were not confident about whether their
institutions provided supportive environments for black and
Hispanic students. Forty percent responded that the
environment for black and Hispanic students was fair or poor
at their institutions.
Attendees at the 1989 annual meeting of the Education
Commission of the States collectively agreed that a need
exists to attract more minority students to universities.
State policy makers were divided, nonetheless, over what
approach should be used to attract those minority students.
They disagreed over whether states should use "a carrot or a
stick" approach to urge colleges and universities to
increase the emphasis on minority recruitment and retention.
In light of the need to improve minority students' academic
achievement, considerable debate ensued over whether radical
changes were needed in today's educational system (Cage,
1989, July 26).
If corrective actions are not taken, problems with
minority recruitment and retention might get worse as
opposed to better. According to Wayne E. Becraft, the
interim Executive Director of the American Association of
Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, contradictory
goals are in place that hinder minority recruitment and
retention. Large public universities are tightening
admission requirements and attempting to recruit minority
students at the same time. Colleges are trying to recruit
minority students without a clear cut plan for doing it.
Without programs that offer support, such universities are
building failure (cited in Evangelauf, 1989, February 8).
MINORITY RECRUITMENT AND RETENTION PROGRAMS IN ACTION
Several colleges and universities have implemented
minority recruitment and retention programs. The following
examples depict an array of strategies that might help an
institution initiate a minority recruitment and retention
WILLIAM AND MARY. Programs initiated at William and
Mary focus on raising the academic skills of black high
school juniors. A summer program consists of a five-week
term and is an attempt to increase the pool of eligible high
school seniors and attract them to William and Mary. If
these students enroll at William and Mary, they are assigned
academic advisors who help the students with the transition
to college (Jaschik, 1989, June 28).
RUTGERS UNIVERSITY. Rutgers is another institution
that has suffered a serious decline in the number of
minority students. In an attempt to battle this problem,
the institution has created special mailings for minority
students, conducted telephone contacts, issued personal
invitations to campus receptions, established a scholarship
program for high ability Black and Puerto Rican students,
and initiated a seminar for minority high school students
and their counselors. Much of Rutgers' effort at retention
has focused on tutorial assistance and additional counseling
for minority students (Kanarek, 1987).
PURDUE UNIVERSITY The School of Engineering and
Technology, Purdue University at Indianapolis has developed
a curriculum that uses computers to develop pre-college
skills of students in grades 6-11 who participate in its
Minority Engineering Advancement Program (MEAP). The
program began in 1974 as a result of low enrollment levels
of minority students in the schools of engineering and
technology. The program is funded through a combination of
private and university funding. Since the program's
inception, 84% of all the program's participants have
attended college and 58% of these majored in engineering or
technology ("Recruiting Minority Students," 1989,
TEXAS TECH UNIVERSITY. Statistics from the Texas
State Board of Education indicated that Hispanic students
comprised 30.4% of Texas student population in 1984, yet the
number of employed Hispanic teachers has remained constant
at about 12% from 1982-86. Furthermore, of those students
who choose teaching as a career, data indicated that 90%
were Anglo, 4.6% black, 2.8% Hispanic, and 1.4% Asian or
Pacific Islander (Zapata, 1988).
Texas Tech University formed a partnership with a
public school district in an effort to recruit and retain
minority students. This effort is intended to make Texas
Tech faculty members available to individual teachers and
classrooms of the Lubbock Independent School District
(LISD). Each faculty member will be used as a general
classroom resource, exchange teacher and role model. This
partnership is expected to help high school students make
the transition to college and to help recruit and retain
minority students at Texas Tech University (Ishler & Leslie,
1987, February 12-15).
VIRGINIA POLYTECHNIC INSTITUTE AND STATE UNIVERSITY.
The Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
uses a five-week summer program to facilitate the enrollment
and retention of black college students. The program
focuses on increasing skills in academic subjects;
developing skills in interpersonal interactions with peers,
faculty and administrators; developing self-confidence and
self-awareness; gaining knowledge of the complex university
structure, its rules, regulations and policies; and learning
successful study methods and time management (McLaughlin et
al., 1984, October 24-26).
NORTHERN ILLINOIS UNIVERSITY. Northern Illinois
University is renovating a program that is giving special
help to minority students. The CHANCE Program helps
minority students who are academically deficient upon
admission by offering counseling, tutoring and basic skills
classes in English, reading, speech and mathematics. The
university is doubling the number of counselors in its
CHANCE program and extending services to cover students'
entire stay on campus.
The preceding examples of recruitment and retention
strategies represent a small sample of ideas that have been
tried by a handful of colleges. Programs at other
universities may be as good or perhaps better, but the
preceding programs were cited by the authors to exemplify
the breadth of activities occurring on college campuses.
Additional recruitment and retention strategies and examples
may be gleaned from the documents Recruiting Minority
Teachers, by the American Association of Colleges for
Teacher Education (1991), and separate articles by Dorman
and Holmes in the Policy Briefs (1990, Number 8) publication
of the North Central Regional Education Laboratory.
ARTICULATION WITH COMMUNITY COLLEGES TO ENHANCE MINORITY
RECRUITMENT AND RETENTION
Although numerous approaches to minority recruitment
deserve recognition (e.g., intervention with public schools,
summer campus internships for visitation programs,
articulation with historically black colleges), the authors
believe that articulation among universities and community
colleges merits special attention. Community colleges are
quite often the point of access to postsecondary education
and professional career exploration for many ethnic
minorities. Estimates are that 54% of all Hispanic and 45%
of all black enrollments in the postsecondary sector are in
two-year colleges (Woods & Williams, 1987). These students
make up 30% of community college enrollment yet they are the
least likely groups to continue their education at four-year
institutions (Watkins, 1990).
Researchers are beginning to identify variables that
enhance transfers for minority students from community
colleges to universities. Well over $10 million dollars
were awarded between 1979 and 1987 by Ford and other
foundations for projects and activities related to minority
student transfer. For students to make progress toward the
Baccalaureate degree, these projects and activities
indicated that three sets of activities should occur: 1)
easing a transition from high school to community college,
including testing and placing students in the proper
courses; 2) supporting the students through a variety of
special interventions while they are enrolled in a community
college; and 3) enhancing transfer to senior institutions
through such strategies as coordinated financial aid
packages, curriculum articulation, and regularly scheduled
staff interaction (Cohen, Lombardi, & Brawer, 1988).
The Ford Foundation funded 24 community colleges to
conduct activities that might increase the number of
minority students who receive Associate degrees and then
transfer to universities. Five institutions received
continued funding for a second year, and each institution
took a different approach in increasing the student flow to
universities. The Cuyahoga Community College established a
center for articulation and transfer that focused on
linkages with high schools and four year institutions.
Liguardia Community College stressed the improvement of the
flow of information to students. Miami-Dade Community
College worked on areas such as mandatory testing and
placement, extensive remedial instruction and enforced
standards of academic progress. The Community College of
Philadelphia stressed curriculum reform through staff
development, and South Mountain Community College created a
variety of student recruitment and support services ("An
assessment of urban community colleges," 1988).
Rivera (1986) found that the four most common program
components for community colleges to increase minority
recruitment to four-year institutions were curriculum
development, articulation, student transfer information and
student services. Recruitment of community college minority
students is a complex issue and needs a variety of programs
which are unique and fit within the framework of an
institution. For additional reading on this topic, the
reader is referred to a publication jointly produced by the
Academy for Educational Development and the College Entrance
Examination Board, Bridges to opportunity: Are community
colleges meeting the transfer needs of minority students?
SOME COMMON GROUND FOR MINORITY RECRUITMENT AND RETENTION
No one set of recommendations will apply to all
universities that wish to increase the recruitment and
retention levels of minority students. Such factors as the
size of programs, populations that they serve, the regional
economy, institutional goals and administrative and faculty
commitments can alter the degree of success that might be
obtained in recruiting and retaining minority students.
However, those institutions that seem to reach a level of
success more often than not start at the local level and
then reach outward. Further, institutions that have
experienced success in improving minority recruitment and
retention have one common element: they have developed a
comprehensive approach for planning and coordination (Green,
Institutions cannot examine the problem of recruitment
and retention of minority students from the perspective of
what's wrong with the student. Instead, an approach should
be taken that asks the question, "What's wrong with our
institution?" Such questioning might lead to the systematic
self-analysis needed to initiate an overall institutional
game plan as opposed to a piece-meal, fragmented manner for
dealing with minority recruitment and retention (Bender &
University officials will be conducting a disservice
if they merely gather up minority students from the inner
city and drop them off as incoming freshmen at a far away,
rural institution of higher education. Many minority
students from urban areas have received inadequate
educations from academically and fiscally bankrupt school
systems. A university located in a rural community may be a
vastly different social, economical, and educational
experience for minority students. The total experience and
value structure of the university and its community might
significantly affect minority students' decision to stay or
Universities should not focus on the quantity of
minority students that are recruited, but the quality of the
transitional efforts that will permit minority students of
vastly different backgrounds to achieve success socially,
economically, and educationally. A beginning point is for
university faculty and administrators to collectively review
policies and common practices that might create barriers to
success for minority students. Minority students have a
minimal chance of graduating without the benefit of a
substantial institutional commitment to retention
(Mancuso-Edwards, 1983, November 29).
Organizational influences that can improve minority
recruitment and retention include developing programs that
help students with academic preparation problems,
emphasizing precollege programs in relation to elementary
and secondary schools, addressing multicultural
environments, resolving organizational dilemmas of
separatist versus support programs for minority students,
creating proactive approaches to financial aid and examining
opportunities for on-campus housing (Crosson, 1987).
IMPLICATIONS FOR TECHNOLOGY TEACHER EDUCATION
As opposed to minority student programs that merely
focus on high enrollments, perhaps the following suggestions
might be more appropriate for technology teacher education
1. Establish networks of information and referral with
local schools and community colleges. Technology teacher
educationc departments need a well planned approach for
recruiting and retaining minority students. Within that
plan, establishing a network will permit a timely flow of
information among industrial and technology education
students and faculty at secondary schools, community
colleges and technology teacher educators at universities.
A well orchestrated network will have much better results
than the once a year contacts that are typically arranged by
student recruiters. A network will permit students and
faculty to become familiar with technology teacher education
programs and to recognize their strengths and weaknesses.
2. Technology teacher education programs do not need to
start from scratch when building recruitment and retention
efforts We must learn from the practices that have been
tested by others. Moe (1989), for example, found in the
literature consistent identification of the basic
requirements needed to foster minority recruitment and
retention. Such enhancements can occur through institutional
improvements including: a) academic assessment programs, b)
tutorial and mentorship services, c) visible minority
leadership and participation on campus, d) curriculum
development, e) increased financial assistance, and f)
supporting an environment that will stimulate learning in a
multicultural setting. Some recruitment and retention
programs (as described in this manuscript) have been
operating for many years. Such models may be adapted to
coincide with local community and institutional needs.
Those characteristics of the community and institution must
be carefully delineated to depict what variables might be
viewed as enhancements or hindrances for recruiting and
retaining minority students.
3. Technology teacher education departments should work in
tandem with other campus offices and departments to increase
the pool of minority students as opposed to competing with
one another for the existing supply of minority students.
For example, departments can collaborate to serve adult
minority students through community based organizations,
military programs, community colleges, public and private
trade schools, apprenticeships, and organized labor.
Constituents of these groups need to be aware of employment
opportunities in technology education teaching.
4. Technology teacher educators should work actively with
community based organizations. By establishing relationships
with community based organizations, they can gain
understanding of cultural characteristics of that particular
CAN TECHNOLOGY EDUCATION MAKE A CONTRIBUTION?
The central theme of this article pertains to
technology teacher education and the recruitment and
retention of minority students. But what about technology
education as a secondary school discipline? Can its content
be established as a connecting force for minority
participation in higher education? Is there any aspect of
its subject structure that sets it apart from other
curriculum areas in articulation with higher education? The
technology education knowledge base lacks research and
experience based conclusions to adequately answer the
preceding questions. However, we can gain insight into
possible connections by examining the linkages that have
been created among other disciplines and the recruitment and
retention of minority students.
The College Board has sponsored a project, called
Equity 2000, to improve the college participation rate of
students in six predominantly minority school districts.
The program will require students of those districts to take
algebra and geometry. The project is based on research
indicating that low-income and minority students who master
algebra and geometry attend and graduate from college at
approximately the same rate as higher income white students
(Collison, 1991, June 12). These findings should be of
considerable interest to technology educators. Perhaps
technology educators should seek avenues for using their
curricula and laboratories to augment the success rate of
minority students in algebra and geometry. Contemporary
secondary curricula such as principles of technology,
automated manufacturing, and computer aided drafting can
serve as news linkages among technology education and other
academic teachers for the purposes of creating integrative
curriculum projects. Action research projects are needed in
the field to pursue such endeavors.
Medical education is another field of study worthy of
examination by technology educators. A report titled
Recruitment and retention of minority medical students in
S.R.E.B. states, by the Southern Regional Educational Board,
was based on a survey of 45 medical schools. The two
institutions that had the highest proportion of black
students (East Carolina and East Tennessee) both had summer
programs designed to help disadvantaged students improve
their skills. At East Carolina University, the eight week
summer program was considered to be the single best
predictor for the student's success in medical school (Cage,
1991). Perhaps similar skill building summer programs could
be cooperatively structured across secondary technology
education programs and technology teacher education
We need to look across disciplines to find examples of
successful minority recruitment and retention programs. The
declining number of minority teachers is a serious threat to
the social ideals of public schools in a racially and
culturally diverse democracy. Technology teacher education
programs should confront this problem with idealism,
innovation, initiative, and (hopefully) added resources
("Work in Progress," 1989). Minority teachers can play a
critical role as empathetic mentors for minority students
and as non-stereotypical examples for majority students
A singular solitary approach for minority recruitment
will not adequately serve the diverse needs of blacks,
Hispanics and/or Asians. Recruitment and retention of
students representing these groups will require technology
teacher educators to become a good neighbor to these
populations. As good neighbors, we must try to establish
long lasting friendships through networks, community based
organizations, local schools and community colleges. Such
relationships are needed so that we can become more involved
in grooming minority students for college at an earlier age
(Magner, 1990, July 26). As those friendships mature, we
will have benefited from an increased knowledge base for
serving the needs of minority students and greater success
at recruiting and retaining minority students in technology
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Journal of Technology Education Volume 4, Number 1 Fall 1992