IT Report Calls Attention to Minority-Serving Schools
In a study that builds upon the 2000 U.S. Department of Commerce-funded National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO) report on IT resources at historically Black colleges and universities, researchers with the Washington-based Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHE) have authored the first, comprehensive national survey of information technology use and resources at the nation’s minority-serving institutions (MSIs). Having commissioned the report, the Alliance for Equity in Higher Education, which represents the 340 U.S. schools considered MSIs, released the study, “Serving the Nation: Opportunities and Challenges in the Use of Information Technology at Minority-Serving Colleges and Universities” last month in Washington. “This report provides compelling evidence of the need to move our national dialogue about technology beyond basic concerns about hardware and software,” says Jamie P. Merisotis, the president of the Institute for Higher Education Policy, the research organization that prepared the report. “We need to focus on how IT is being used at minority-serving institutions, and why investing in them could have an enormous impact on the nation’s future work-force development.”Finding that historically Black colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, and tribal colleges and universities “are in an unrivaled position to remedy the technological disenfranchisement” of the nation’s Black, Latino and American Indian populations, the report says such schools are hampered due to lack of stable financial resources and other concerns. The report also reveals that while a handful of MSIs have attained significant results in the application of information technology, too many have urgent technology needs requiring significant support and expertise from the federal government, states and the private sector.According to the study, just 65 percent of MSIs offer online admissions applications in comparison to 92 percent of other institutions. While 80 percent of students at majority White institutions own computers, less than half, or 45 percent, are computer owners at MSIs. Faculty use of technology at MSIs also is limited, with fewer than 50 percent using email and/or the Internet as a teaching and learning tool. Included in the report are in-depth profiles of six MSIs that have gotten high marks for their innovative IT use. The schools profiled in the report are Salish Kootenai College, Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College, University of Texas at El Paso, Miami Dade College, Tennessee State University and Johnson C. Smith University. At Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, N.C., the report noted that there are more than 3,000 Internet access points on campus, allowing technology to be integrated into the teaching, research and service activities of the university. At Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College in Cloquet, Minn., gaining access to resources has enabled the school to become one of a few U.S. institutions offering degrees in computer forensics and e-crime. In addition, Miami Dade College in Florida has used technology to boost student retention through the use of “tel-e advisors,” as well as online registration and financial aid information, according to the report. “The report can be used broadly by those at MSIs, by policy-makers and others,” says Sterlin Adams, the vice president of technology at NAFEO.In 2000, NAFEO researchers, with funding from the Commerce Department, found that computer networks in a majority of Black schools were concentrated in administrative buildings rather than in classrooms and student dormitories. In addition, fewer than 25 percent of HBCU students were bringing their own computers to school, compared to nearly 50 percent of non-HBCU students. Officials say the new IHE report builds upon the earlier NAFEO study because it examines MSIs widely and it examines how IT is used as teaching and learning tools.“Our effort now is to get a handle on how the technology is used in addition to knowing infrastructure needs,” Merisotis says. Among report recommendations is that the U.S. Congress and the president pass and implement the Digital and Wireless Network Technology Program Act, a technology funding bill that unanimously passed the U.S. Senate last year but awaits action in the U.S. House of Representatives (see Black Issues, Jan. 29, 2004). The report also urged increased technology investment under the Higher Education Act. The alliance also seeks the investment of state funds for expanding IT capacity at MSIs, and industry contributions to fund innovations in technology use.“I think we have to use this report to create awareness in the House of Representatives for the need to pass the Digital and Wireless Network Technology bill,” says Bea Pace Smith, vice president of government relations at NAFEO. MSIs enroll more than 1.8 million minority students, or about one-third of all underrepresented minorities in higher education, the IHE reports. The Alliance for Equity in Higher Education, founded in 1999, was established as a coordinating organization for the three leading minority higher education associations. The founding partners of the alliance are the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC), Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) and NAFEO. The Institute for Higher Education Policy serves as the convening an organizing entity for the alliance. Copies of the report are available at <www.msi-alliance.org> or <www.ihep.org>.
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