Black Undergraduate Enrollment is Dropping: How One Student-Led Organization is Fighting to Raise It

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William Redding, president of Georgia Daze Minority Recruitment at the University of Georgia, hosts a weekly meeting with the Georgia Daze Executive Board to discuss future events and plans for Black students in Athens, Georgia, on Feb. 15, 2023. (Photo/Giovanni Rossi)

 

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While the University of Georgia’s student population continues to grow each year, the number of Black undergraduate admissions hasn’t grown at all — it’s declining. 

According to the UGA Fact Book, between 2015 to 2021, Black student undergraduate enrollment numbers declined compared to other ethnic identities. Approximately 33% of Georgia’s population is Black or African-American, which doesn’t reflect the ethnic identity of the student body. (Graphic/Giovanni Rossi)

According to the UGA Fact Book, which shows publicly available information facilitated by the Office of Institutional Research, Black student enrollment from 2017 to 2021 has been on the decline compared to other ethnicities on campus.

While the University of Georgia says it celebrates diversity and inclusion, especially during the recent Black History Month, only 6.6% of the total undergraduate body is Black or African-American. It’s the lowest percentage in five years.

In 2021, the Black student population represented 6.6% of the total undergraduate body, a 0.5% decrease from the previous year. (Graphic/Giovanni Rossi)
 Why It’s Newsworthy: At the University of Georgia, Black enrollment has been declining since 2017. With admission season in full swing, Black student-led organizations are trying to shift that fall in numbers.  

Areas That Could Be Expanded

Georgia Daze, a Black, student-led organization at the University of Georgia focused on recruitment for minority students with an emphasis on Black students, says that it ultimately starts with the admission process.

The goal of Georgia Daze is to increase the minority undergraduate population by posting events and holding major recruitment experiences like the Georgia Daze Minority Recruitment Weekend. 

William Redding, president of Georgia Daze Minority Recruitment, says UGA allows for the opportunity to find yourself in Black, student-led organizations, but there are still areas that could be expanded upon, like the Georgia Daze Minority Recruitment Weekend.

“It’s an experience where students get the opportunity who are admitted into the university, to get to come in and experience the university — may that be the bus system, may that be the dining halls, may that be the dorms — and see what that Black student population looks like and what the culture is like at that university,” he says. 

“UGA will never beat an HBCU at the community game, and they should not be trying to,” Redding says, “but they should be trying to as often as possible, make sure they’re actively recruiting in Black areas, predominantly Black areas, get to experience the university, both during immediately after admission and before admission, the opportunity to come on this campus and experience it is highly important.” 

Other organizations like the Georgia African-American Male Experience, an initiative that focuses on ensuring that Black and African-American males experience community before attending the university campus, are working to create a sense of community for Black students.

Black organizations like UGA Black Theatrical Ensemble as well as the Office of Institutional Diversity are working with Georgia Daze to foster more community and help with retention. 

Redding says that Georgia Daze is actively partnering with UGA admissions, too, by working through the admission process to understand that Georgia’s Black population is 33% and then target schools with the most Black students to prioritize recruitment. 

Being Black in a Predominantly White Institution

Fourth-year management information systems major Erica Degue works as the recruitment co-chair and was inspired to apply to UGA after watching a Georgia Daze Weekend experience video posted by a Black student.

But at first, Degue felt like she was going to feel alone at a PWI.

“I didn’t really want to go to UGA, because I came from a predominantly white high school. And I just didn’t want to go through that again,” she said.

Degue said she now understands how important Black spaces on campus are.

“I just wanted to go to a place where I could see people who actually looked like me,” she said.

Members of the Georgia Daze Executive Board voice plans to partner with other Black student-led organizations and partnerships in Athens, Georgia, on Feb. 15, 2023. (Photo/Giovanni Rossi)

“Everyone wants to live that [HBCU] experience, but a lot of people don’t know what to get here like UGA. We have our own homecoming experience, we have our own Daze Weekend, but high schoolers don’t know that,” Degue says.

“I feel like definitely trying to start recruiting from high school ages is the biggest way to get people to come over.”

The 6.6% Discussion: What’s Next

“I think it ultimately starts with the admissions process,” says Nia Simons, community service chair on Georgia Daze. “I always thought of UGA as my number one school just because of the opportunities it has. However, they don’t have opportunities for Black students, or just minority students in general. When it comes to getting those opportunities, it is harder for us, no matter what we do, and we have to work harder for those kinds of things.” 

Simons believes that the goal of organizations like Georgia Daze is to give back. 

“There’s just not enough of us,” Simons said. “And it wasn’t till I joined an organization like Georgia Daze at UGA that I really got to feel that sense of community here. And I think the overall point of Georgia Daze and other organizations like us is to continue to make sure it grows.” 

Simons, with a major in management information systems and international business, always remembers what her father said to her that keeps her going.

“You have two things going against you: it’s going to be that not only are you a female in a male-dominated industry, but you’re also a Black female in a male-dominated industry,” Simons said. “And so that’s always stuck with me. And I want to just make sure I continue to lead people or inspire people that there is a space for us here. We just have to come together to make sure it stays.” 

Georgia Daze just finished its first of two weekends of Georgia Daze Minority Recruitment Weekend which were held during Black History Month. The recruitment event connects admitted students to faculty, graduate students and alumni, as well as focusing on community service within the Athens-Clarke County area.

Giovanni Rossi is a senior majoring in journalism at the University of Georgia.

 

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