On Buffaloes, College Enrollment and Morality

Demographic Changes: One Way Avenue

Many researchers have painted a bleak, one-way street scenario in terms of population for the central plains, including Kansas . Some have even proposed to develop "buffalo commons" in the area following depopulation trends. Well, if we look at population growth comparing the 1990 and the 2000 census, we see that the population in Kansas grew 8.3%, but that the Non-Hispanic White population in Kansas remained stagnant. This means that growth in minority population accounts for almost 100% of the population growth in our State. Now, no population growth in ten years is consistent with a "buffalo commons" scenario. An 8.5% population growth is not.

The Non-Hispanic White population in Kansas was 83.3% in April 2000 according to the Census. The Census Bureau estimate for July 2003 is that Non-Hispanic White population in Kansas was at 81.9% (www.census.gov/popest/states/asrh/SC-EST2003-03.html). With the current trend, there will be over 22% of minority population in our state by the end of this decade (this is only 5 years from now). It is highly plausible that just 15 years from now one in three Kansas residents and about half of our high school population will be of minority background. And this, certainly, is going to give a "beyond buffalo" dynamism to our economy. This trend, fortunately, seems to be a one-way avenue .

Education: A Win-Win Scenario

These demographic changes are a given. What is not a given is what is going to happen with the education of the fastest growing segments of our population. We have two scenarios here: If we ignore the diversification of our school districts, if we proceed with an ostrich-like, business as usual mentality, we are likely to have very high dropout rates and lower scores in standardized tests. Overall, districts may well struggle to conform to national standards. Matriculation at state universities is going to decrease dramatically. More importantly, we will be generating a two-tier society.

If we do the right thing, if we provide role models in our schools and universities, if our children and youth learn from multiculturally competent professionals in a diversity-inviting environment, if we pay attention to the special needs of different groups (and not only for "low achievement" cases), then we have a win-win scenario : We inject to our state and our economy citizens who can excel in a growing, dynamic society.