Saturday, August 28, 2010

How Will the Nation's Growing Diversity Affect College Students in a Decade?

Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks
As part of a leadership team that gives oversight to the direction of the U.S. Campus Ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ, I was involved in some meetings this past week in which we did some long-term strategic planning for the future of our ministry.

In order to meet the spiritual needs of an ever changing student culture, we cannot simply seek to respond to current realities. We have to be able to anticipate what will be coming down the road and pay attention to societal indicators of what students will be like in the next five or ten years.

One of the areas that I give particular attention to is the changing demographics in the United States and how that affects the life of college students and ministry to these students.  Within another decade, for most parts of the country, if a campus-based ministry is only effective in reaching those of European ancestry then that ministry will soon become obsolete.

We already know that close to four out of ten of the nation's college students are not white, but we have to look no further than the demographic makeup of the country's kindergarten students to see how rapidly ethnic minorities, particularly Hispanics and, to a lesser extent, Asian Americans, are increasing in number. 

USA Today covers this intriguing trend:
"The kindergarten class of 2010-11 is less white, less black, more Asian and much more Hispanic than in 2000, reflecting the nation's rapid racial and ethnic transformation.

The profile of the 4 million children starting kindergarten reveals the startling changes the USA has undergone the past decade and offers a glimpse of its future. In this year's class, for example, about one out of four 5-year-olds will be Hispanic. Most of today's kindergartners will graduate from high school in 2023.

More Hispanic children are likely in the next generation because the number of Hispanic girls entering childbearing years is up more than 30% this decade, says Kenneth Johnson, demographer at the University of New Hampshire's Carsey Institute. "It's only the beginning."

A USA TODAY analysis of the most recent government surveys shows:

• About 25% of 5-year-olds are Hispanic, a big jump from 19% in 2000. Hispanics of that age outnumber blacks almost 2 to 1.

• The percentage of white 5-year-olds fell from 59% in 2000 to about 53% today and the share of blacks from 15% to 13%.

"This is not just a big-city phenomenon," Johnson says. "The percentage of minority children is growing faster in the suburbs and in rural areas."
For those involved in education and in outreach to students, a growing appreciation, knowledge and experience with cultures other than one's own will be needed. For example, when Campus Crusade was founded in 1951 at UCLA, the campus had approximately 13,000 students and 98% were white. Today, there are 27,000 undergrads at UCLA and less than 1/3 are white. If estimates prove true, no one ethnic group within the U.S. will be in the majority after the next dozen years. If we want to be effective in reaching these students in the future, we need to make the necessary changes now. If we wait until then, it will be too late.

You can read the complete USA Today article here.

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