Bristow Marchant’s Dec. 20 article outlining the growing and increasingly diverse community at the University of South Carolina’s Columbia campus was unfortunately tainted by a false and misleading headline: “Minority enrollment up at USC, but not for black students.” In fact, the number of African-American students is growing.
Although the number of undergraduates who identify solely as African-American has risen only from 2,295 in 2008 to 2,301 this fall, there are an additional 325 students who identify as African-American and one or more other races.
Federal reporting requirements changed in 2010, allowing students to select more than one race. As a result, many students who were previously reported as African-American began to choose multiple race/ethnicity categories to identify their familial history. Further complicating the matter, federal guidelines require that a student who chooses Hispanic and any other race or ethnicity must be reported as Hispanic. So we can’t count students who choose both African-American and Hispanic as African-American students.
A key takeaway from the Dec. 19 meeting of the Board of Trustees is that South Carolina’s population is becoming more diverse, and so is USC’s. More and more students are identifying as biracial or multiracial. As our society changes, so too must the way we discuss and understand diversity.
At USC Columbia, we can and will do better. But we’re proud of the progress we’ve made. We provide an accessible, affordable education for more students of color than any other institution in the state. Most importantly, we graduate more African-American and other students of color than any other school in South Carolina. Our graduation rate for African-American students is 74 percent, more than twice the national average. We graduate more African-Americans than 97 percent of all colleges in the country.
The Education Trust has cited USC as among the nation’s best at improving graduation rates for students of color. And the Brookings Institute has recognized us as a national leader in contributing to the social mobility of our graduates. There is no question that we’re doing better.