Sunday, December 27, 2015
Oklahoma Didn't Want Hispanic Students To Go To College 30 Years Ago Either: "don't really belong there"
YET another large-scale affirmative action plan is being advocated for Oklahoma's tax-supported colleges and universities at a time when fiscal austerity is the order of the day.
It's not being called that in so many words, but the recommendation that state college administrators intensify their recruitment of and efforts to retain Hispanic students amounts to the same thing. State Regents for Higher Education are urged to pursue "enhanced college recruitment activities, especially at the comprehensive universities" in a report by Joe E. Hagy, a staff member. His report also says college officials should take steps to attract more Hispanic high school graduates directly into the higher education system.
The statistical basis on which Hagy builds his conclusions is the fact that while Hispanics comprise nearly 2 percent of Oklahoma's total population, the number of Hispanic students attending the 27 state-supported institutions of higher learning make up only 1 percent of the total student enrollment.
What we have here is the same old "numbers game" being played with respect to Hispanics that has characterized the long-running dispute over the number of blacks in state colleges in general and the role of Langston University in particular.
The report also coincides with a lobbying campaign by Oklahoma's higher education chancellor, Joe Leone, urging public support for higher taxes to alleviate a fiscal crunch at state colleges and universities. Leone stoutly defended the need for 27 different state-supported institutions at a meeting of the Higher Education Alumni Council last week in Oklahoma City.
Any reduction in the number of institutions would restrict college access to many Oklahoma students, Leone argues, because the existence of so many institutions throughout the state makes higher education both accessible and affordable.
This is a straightforward exposition of the old populist theory, still deep-seated in many aspects of Oklahoma's governmental structure, that dates to pre-statehood days. It expresses the view that everybody has something akin to a "right" to attend college, and that it's up to taxpayers to provide all high school graduates with that opportunity.
Affirmative action plans such as the one for Hispanics now being suggested go a step further. In effect, they say that it's not enough for taxpayers to provide the campuses and faculties but they also must subsidize minority student recruitment and retention.
College presidents naturally would like to see enrollments keep climbing to support their pleadings for more state funding. But in reality, there is no such thing as a right to attend college.
The state has a responsibility to make a realistic and affordable level of higher education opportunity available to individuals who are competent enough to take advantage of it. But taxpayers shouldn't be asked to subsidize programs to entice anybody into college, especially when experience suggests many who are currently enrolled don't really belong there in the first place.