After 22 years, impact of affirmative action shows in student body

The University’s student affirmative action programs, which began in 1968, have helped bring about a substantial change in the character of the student body. Over this period, total minority enrollment has increased from about 4 percent to nearly 20 percent, according to a report presented to the Board of Regents on Feb. 16.

The Office of Minority Affairs has spent about $25 million from institutional resources over this period. Additional funds, both institutional and from federal sources, support programs in health sciences, engineering and other academic units.

Since 1971, when the Office of Minority Affairs began keeping records of graduates by ethnic group, more than 5,000 minority students who entered the University through the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) earned undergraduate degrees. In 1987, 62 percent of all minority students earning undergraduate degrees at four-year, public institutions in Washington were UW graduates.

“The UW has a record of support for minority student programs that few institutions can match,” says William Baker, acting vice president for minority affairs. Enrollment among most minority groups, with the exception of blacks, has risen steadily over the past two decades. Black student enrollment increased from 220 in 1968 to 1,468 in 1974, declined to 941 in 1985, and was 1,013 at the beginning of the 1989-90 academic year.

Six-year graduation rates among students admitted through EOP are lower than those of regularly admitted freshmen. For example, of those students regularly admitted in 1981, 62 percent had graduated six years later. For 1982 admissions, 61 percent got their degrees within six years. The comparable figures for EOP students are 36 and 31 percent.

In order to increase graduation rates, minority affairs and other units have invested in a variety of programs for counseling, tutorial help, skills-building classes, pre­college preparatory and summer “bridge” programs, and other efforts.