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August 04, 2004

American Indians Catching Up With College Educations

FROM THE VANGUARD OF COLLEGE ADMISSIONS OFFICERS ENERGETICALLY EFFORTING TO OUTDO ONE ANOTHER WITH THEIR STUDENT DIVERSITY PORTFOLIOS comes a report on the cottage industry that has developed to help American Indian students improve their college acceptance and graduation rates.

While considerable progress has been made over the past two decades for other minority groups—women, African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians—American Indians and Alaska Natives have been largely left behind.

It’s a complex blend of enlightenment, political correctness, sympathy, justice, European guilt and a reparations mentality that has driven the push to improve chances for Indian students.

The numbers are daunting. American Indians and Alaska Natives comprise about 1% of the population in the US. However, they are significantly underrepresented in the college population, with about .6% of the total. In athletics, the representation is even lower—about .3% for Division I-II-II sports, for Division I-II-III basketball and for Division I-II-III football.

Graduation rates for Indians pale by comparison to the general population. Less than 20% of Indians who enroll in college earn a bachelors degree.

Reason cited for the low grad rates include substandard schools on reservations and culture shock when Indian students move into university life.

Carleton College in Minnesota puts on College Horizons, a five-day course exclusively targeting American Indian students. This year there were representatives from 21 schools—including Stanford, Harvard, Yale and Princeton—imparting words of wisdom to 50 rapt college candidates.

One of the presenters was Carmen Lopez, head of the Harvard Native American Program. She said that Harvard currently has 55 Native Americans out of a total enrollment of 6500, and she said she would like to increase that.

College Horizons’ founder, Dr. Whitney Laughlin, laid out the program for one of the student attendees when he said, "Here's what you have going for you. You're low income, you're Native American, you have an outstanding grade-point average and you have a solid record in athletics. You're doing a great job."

Interesting that Dr. Laughlin mentioned grades third, and not first.

(this 336 word excerpt—with accompanying commentary—was distilled from a 1220 word article in the New York Times of 8-1-04, plus statistics from the NCAA, the US Census Report and the US Dept. of Education)