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Community College of Philadelphia (CCP)/Photo: AL DÍA
Community College of Philadelphia (CCP)/Photo: AL DÍA

What is Higher Education doing to close the Diversity gap in campuses?

Temple University is lagging behind in the recruitment of Latino students, with only 6.9% of its total student population, while the Community College of…

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Diversity of Philadelphia is represented within the higher educational institutions throughout the city. But much remains to be done.

While many students that attend these colleges and universities are from Philadelphia and the surrounding areas, others travel both nationally and internationally for their education.

While higher education institutions engage in a variety of best practices and strategies to both attract and adequately serve a diverse student body, the challenges are still present.

Here are a few examples:

Building bridges for the immigrant community

At the Community College of Philadelphia (CCP), the largest community college in the city, there were about 27,729 students enrolled in credit and non-credit courses during the 2017-2018 academic year, according to statistics from the college’s website.

About 76 percent of those students identify as minority students, including 50.8 percent that identify as African-American, 14.8 percent that identify as Latino, and 10.4 percent that identify as Asian/Pacific Islander.

“I think there’s an abundance of literature that shows that in all areas of work, that having a diverse employee pool, having a diverse team, lead to better outcomes in terms of work product, the creativity that comes from having a diverse team,” said Dr. Judith Gay, vice president for strategic initiatives and chief of staff at CCP. “So I think that employers are very much interested in making sure that they’re hiring to their benefit, actually, for diversity and inclusion, and making sure that they reap the benefits of having a diverse workforce.”

Aside from the various professional development opportunities offered through the Career Connections office, CCP also offers non-credit English as a Second Language (ESL) classes to serve people within the immigrant population in Philadelphia, according to David Asencio, dean of students at CCP.

“By hopefully working with them where they’re at in terms of their communication skills, their language skills, transitioning into a new culture, we’re able to educate them and  help them to become aware of what's happening in the community and to better transition into the workforce and into their communities,” Asencio said.

Staff Training

In the Fall 2018 semester, a total of 40,031 students were enrolled at Temple University; 6.9 percent of students are Hispanic/Latino, 11.8 percent of students are African-American, and 11.5 percent of students are Asian, according to “Temple University at a Glance 2018-2019” from The Office of Institutional Research and Assessment (IRA).

In collaboration with The Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, Advocacy and Leadership and external professional associations, the Temple University Career Center works to ensure its staff training comprehensive and inclusive, according to Laura Craig, associate director of career development at the Temple University Career Center.

“I think something that underlies how we provide opportunities to students from different backgrounds is the level of training that we undertake to be really understanding of the needs of students from those backgrounds and help speak to those needs in a relevant way,” Craig said.

You cannot be what you cannot see

48 percent of students accepted at the University of Pennsylvania in the class of 2022 identify as Hispanic, black, Asian, or Native American, according to the institution’s website.

Dr. Marybeth Gasman is the director of the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions and a professor at the university. She developed the center in 2014 to provide support and resources to more than 650 Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) throughout the United State

MSIs are defined as “institutions of higher education that serve minority populations,” according to the U.S. Department of the Interior Office of Civil Rights. All of the programs offered through the center are free, including opportunities for entrepreneurial fellowships and the HSI Pathways to the Professoriate, which works to increase the number of Latinos in the professoriate, according to Gasman.

“I think that minority serving institutions typically do not have the same kinds of resources as majority institutions, by and large,” Gasman said.

“And I happen to be a professor at a wealthy, Ivy League institution and I think that one of the things that’s important to me is that I use those resources to bring opportunity to people and I don’t think that charging people is the right thing to do.”

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