Board encouraged by diversity strides at CU

Challenges include reaching, enrolling, retaining African-American students

The University of Colorado Denver reported to the CU Board of Regents at its June meeting that more than half of its new resident freshmen are a racial/ethnic minority: CU Denver is at 51 percent, UCCS 36 percent and CU-Boulder 29 percent.

The board commended diversity officers from each campus for overall increased enrollment and graduation percentages of minorities. Some regents, however, voiced concern over the low number of African-American students attending CU, especially at CU-Boulder.

Each campus reported increases in the percentage of minority students, with the combined CU-Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus having the highest percentage of undergraduate minority students at 35 percent. UCCS’s undergraduate minority population is 28 percent, up 8 percent from four years ago and CU-Boulder’s undergraduate minority population is at 20 percent. The campuses also reported:


  • The 20 percent undergraduate enrollment of diverse students is an all-time high.
  • The freshmen class was 23 percent ethnic minority in fall 2013, including 29 percent in the resident freshmen class.
  • A total of 5,192 degree-seeking undergraduates self-identified as an ethnic minority.
  • The graduate enrollment of diverse students increased to 13 percent in fall 2013, also an all-time high, for a total of 705 who self-identified as American Indian, Latino, African-American, Asian-American, and more than one race.


  • The proportion of minority undergraduates has gone up 2 percentage points each year for the past four years, increasing from 20 percent to 28 percent.
  • The diversity of resident freshmen is at 36 percent for the incoming class in fall 2013.
  • A “success coaching” staff complements the advising done by professional staff and by faculty by systematically engaging with students throughout their freshman year. Students who were “coached” last year were retained at a rate 20 percent to 30 percent higher than those who were not coached.
  • Freshman minority retention improved in fall 2013, from 67 percent to 69 percent.
  • The graduate student population is at 18 percent minority and is growing faster than overall graduate enrollment.

CU Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus

  • The proportion of undergraduate students of color at the combined Denver Campus and Anschutz Medical Campus has increased each year since 2005, reaching 35 percent for fall 2013.
  • The numbers and proportions of graduate students of color have consistently increased the last several years, peaking at 913 and 16 percent in fall 2013.
  • In the fall semesters of 2007 through 2009, the percentage of health professional students of color at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus remained steady at 21 percent.
  • The percentage of bachelor’s degrees awarded to students of color at the combined Denver Campus and Anschutz Medical Campus reached 28 percent in 2013.
  • More than one-fourth of the bachelor’s degrees were earned by students of color.
  • Although only 12 percent of the master’s degrees were awarded to students of color, of the 669 degrees awarded at the doctoral level, more than 20 percent were conferred to students of color.

Bob Boswell, vice chancellor in the Office of Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement at CU-Boulder, said that since 2007 the percentage of African-American students at CU-Boulder has decreased by 9 percent and American Indian students have decreased by 19 percent. He said some of the shift is because of a restructuring in how students’ ethnicity is classified in the admissions process.

“Clearly we have a challenge,” Boswell said. “The climate in Boulder – the city itself – there’s a perception that we’re not a welcoming climate.”

Michael Carrigan, D-Denver, chair of the board, said he consistently hears from his constituents about the lack of diversity at CU-Boulder. He said he’s often been told African-American students face an unwelcoming culture with fewer amenities than other students.

“I’m frustrated that there has not been a meaningful change in the 10 years I’ve been on this board,” Carrigan said. “It is a blemish on what is an otherwise outstanding institution.”

Boswell outlined current and proposed programs geared toward determining and eliminating barriers that keep minority students from enrolling at CU-Boulder and from earning their degree within six years.

CU-Boulder plans to conduct a student survey “to identify factors that impact students in the classroom; to address factors that impact their persistence, retention and graduations,” Boswell said.

The overall increase in the percentage of minority students was encouraging, he said.

“In 2007, our entering class was 356 Latino students and currently it’s 634, so that’s a 78 percent increase. In Colorado high schools, there’s only been a 28 percent increase of (graduating) Latino students in that same time period,” Boswell said.