The University of South Carolina is touting an increase in the number of minority students that have enrolled in the past eight years.
As of fall 2016, minority students make up 20 percent of the undergraduate student body at USC’s Columbia campus, up from 17 percent at the same point in 2008, according to statistics a university diversity official shared with trustees Tuesday.
From the fall of 2008 to 2016, the number of minority students at the Columbia campus increased by 1,710 – to 5,096 from 3,386, according to numbers compiled by the school’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion.
The boost, touted as evidence the university is taking steps to make campus more diverse, happened despite a drop in enrollment among African-American undergraduates. Over the same eight years, the percentage of African-Americans on campus has dropped to 9.2 percent from 11.6 percent, even as the total number of black students held steady.
However, other minority groups have bolstered campus diversity. The number of Hispanic students grew from 702 in fall 2010 to 1,115 in 2016, a 59 percent increase. And the number of students of two or more races grew by 45 percent from 621 to 900 over the same period.
USC’s branch campuses saw an even greater increase in the total number of minority students – to 10,575 from 7,530 – a 27 percent increase over the eight year period.
“It’s not that they can’t get to Columbia or can’t get in, but living closer to home is just more affordable,” USC President Harris Pastides said of minority students attending the school’s satellite campuses.
African-American enrollment at USC Columbia has held steady, with 2,295 undergraduates in 2008 and 2,301 in 2016. Meanwhile, the number of white undergrads over the same period grew by 17 percent to 19,470 from 16,639.
African-American numbers have been swamped by a rise in the number of out-of-state students, said chief diversity officer John Dozier. In 2016, African-Americans made up 15 percent of S.C. students who enrolled in the university, he said.
Enrollment among minority graduate students also went up 13 percent to 1,716 from 2008 to 2016. Over the same period, USC has added a net 129 minority faculty positions, bringing the total to 585, and bumped up its total minority non-teaching staff by 5 percent.
“We can and want to do better,” Pastides said. “But we’ve got a phenomenal story to tell.”