In a year when
the University of Kentucky is honoring its African-American heritage with the 50 Years of
African Americans Commemoration, the university is celebrating great strides in meeting
the goals of The Kentucky Plan for Equal Opportunities in Postsecondary Education. A
recent report from UK's Office of Affirmative Action shows the university has met goals
for African-American student enrollment and faculty employment.
"This really shows
the university's commitment to having a diverse campus," said UK Vice Chancellor for
Minority Affairs Lauretta Byars. "Our president has made a commitment to diversity
and has provided us with the support to reach those goals."
The Kentucky Plan, created in 1982 to help remove vestiges of segregation from higher
education in the state, now seeks to provide greater access and equal opportunity for an
increasingly diverse student population. Administered by the Council on Postsecondary
Education Committee on Equal Opportunities, the plan's goals are reevaluated annually.
UK has had annual growth in African-American student enrollment. In 1998, first-time
freshman African-American enrollment was 8.2 percent and undergraduate enrollment climbed
to 6.3 percent. In 1990, African Americans represented only 3.9 percent of undergraduates
The university also has made strides in graduate enrollment and faculty recruitment. In
1996, 6.1 percent of graduate students were African Americans, surpassing its goal of 5.3
percent. Numbers for 1998 indicate graduate enrollment is up to 6.4 percent. Faculty
employment rates jumped over the 3.0 percent goal in 1993, hitting 4.1 percent in 1997.
Of Kentucky's eight public universities, UK ranks second in terms of percentage of the
state's African-American students enrolled. In 1997, UK enrolled 15.8 percent of the
state's African-American undergraduates studying in the four-year college system and 19.7
percent of all resident Kentucky undergraduates. UK is the only one of the eight Kentucky
universities that practices selective admissions.
"I think African Americans are starting to look beyond the segregated history of
higher education to the opportunities it offers," Byars said. "Faculty are
excited to come to UK because they see tremendous opportunities for research as the
university strives to become a top 20 school. Students come to UK because of our
commitment to student success and diversity and cutting-edge knowledge."
Students at the university hail from more than 100 foreign countries, all 50 U.S.
states and almost every Kentucky county, Byars said. With such a diverse population,
students have the opportunity to participate in groups such as the Black Student Union and
take part in festivals like the annual Cultural Diversity Festival.
But UK's great success lies not only in bringing African Americans to the university,
but retaining them, said Patty Bender, affirmative action technical coordinator for UK.
"An important point is that our Kentucky resident African-American and white
students are entering and staying at the university at nearly the same rate," Bender
In 1997, the retention rate of resident first-year African-American students was 79.4
percent, compared to 80.4 percent for white students. Resident undergraduate retention was
78 percent for African-American students and 81.2 percent for white students. The
graduation rate for Kentucky African-American students also has improved significantly.
"Students are coming here and graduating at increasing rates, and a great deal of
that has to do with the programs of the Office of Minority Affairs," Bender said.
Programs such as the "Come See for Yourself" orientation for prospective
students and the presence of the Martin Luther King Jr. Cultural Center attract many
students, Byars said. The availability of offerings such as the William Parker Academic
Scholarship and the Lyman T. Johnson Fellowship programs also provide incentives to top
minority students. The 50 Years Commemoration also has proved UK's dedication to
diversity. However, the success of African-American students may serve as the best
encouragement. In 1998, student Anthony Jones was named a Truman Scholar, Jimmy Glenn was
elected president of the Student Government Association and alumnus Angelo Henderson was
named a Pulitzer Prize winner.
"Our students are seeing they can do anything they set their minds on," Byars
said. "They are achieving great things and inspiring us all to do even better."