Boulder, Colo. Buoyed by a $1 million donation from a philanthropic group, the University of Colorado on Thursday said it plans to establish a $7.5 million scholarship endowment to boost diversity.
The endowment, started with a donation from the Pioneer Fund of Denver, will go to boost scholarships in the school's Pre-Collegiate Development Program, which prepares middle school and high school students from traditionally underrepresented groups for college.
"We believe the lack of need-based aid is a key impediment for these fine students in pursuing their education at the university," Interim President Hank Brown said in a statement. "Increasing diversity is a high priority for us and if we are going to be successful, we need to raise our own funds."
Minority students make up fewer than 15 percent of CU's more than 29,000 students. Six percent of students this fall were listed as Hispanic or Latino, 6 percent were Asian, fewer than 2 percent - 457 - were black, and just 226 were American Indian.
Overall, 19 percent of Colorado's residents say they're are Hispanic or Latino, while blacks make up 4 percent, according to the 2004 American Community Survey.
Diversity at the school has garnered attention after a rash of racially tinged incidents this past year, including one that earlier this month resulted in the suspension of a football player and his girlfriend quitting the cross-country-track team. The two were accused of sending a racist e-mail to a Hispanic cross-country runner with references to being dragged behind a car, a reference to an incident in 1998 in Texas when a black man was dragged to his death. The two athletes were cited for harassment and ethnic intimidation.
Jeremy Jimenez, one of the three top executives of CU's student government, said he thought the scholarship was the start of the administration working to meet students' requests to improve diversity on campus.
"They've already made initial steps to work with us, but this is a pretty big step to take," he said. "The actual plan to fundraise is great, but we want to make sure these funds are collected."
Jimenez, a first-year graduate student in the School of Education, said he went through the Pre-Collegiate Development Program. The scholarships, he said, will help recruit more minority students.
"The more scholarships the students can get, the more we'll bring them to our schools," he said.