University of Kentucky officials are expressing concern over a double-digit drop in the number of black freshmen enrolled at the school. Despite a push for more diversity, UK enrolled 50 fewer black freshmen for the fall semester, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported.
Officials attribute the decrease to several factors, including an increase in the number of students who identify themselves as being of two or more races, said Provost David Blackwell. UK also lost student recruiters last year in the crucial Chicago and Atlanta markets, he said.
Blackwell said UK has replaced the two recruiters and will rehire a company that helps publicize applications to specific student populations.
"I'm very concerned about this," Blackwell said. "Hopefully, with the correctives we've put in place, this will turn around."
The number of black students dropped 11.9 percent, from 420 in 2017 to 370 this fall, while those who identify as two or more races jumped from 199 to 238. UK hit an all-time high for black students in 2014, with 429.
Overall, the 2018 freshman class was 5,102 students, with 36 percent coming from out of state.
UK has historically lost many in-state black students to the University of Louisville; that school's total black enrollment in 2017 was 10.4 percent compared to UK's 6.9 percent.
Two years ago, President Eli Capilouto met with the UK Black Graduate and Professional Student Association over a list of requests they made to improve the racial climate on campus, including accountability measures for every department to make sure they meet diversity goals.
Sonja Feist-Price, director of institutional diversity, said UK has done more than ever to "ensure that UK is the academic institution of choice for African-American students, not just in the state but across the country."
Jamahl McDaniel, who attended UK and now works at the MLK Center there, said UK does a good job of introducing under-represented minorities to campus, "but sometimes there's a disconnect when they get there."
McDaniel said it's still hard for black students to feel they can talk openly about why UK seems not always welcoming.
"What is the balance?" he asked. "How do you make everyone feel comfortable while acknowledging the realities of why so many people don't feel comfortable?"