News | Sarah Boadwine
With Bethel enrollment numbers staying statis, some professors question whether rising efforts for diversity could solve the problem. Alhough this is not a new topic around Bethel, it is one that professors Ruben Rivera, Curtiss DeYoung and others are bringing back to campus.
During the 2011-2012 school year, 15 percent of CAS was said to be an ethnic minority. DeYoung and Rivera claim that this number needs to rise in order to keep up with the changing world that surrounds Bethel.
According to DeYoung, by 2040 whites will drop to less than 50 percent of the population of the U.S., and by 2023, the population under the age of 18 will be predominantly persons of color. The birth rate for white families has already dropped below 50 percent.
“One reason I believe that we need to focus on diversity is that our nation is becoming radically diverse. In order to stay caught up with where the country is going, we as a school need to work on issues of diversity,” DeYoung said.
Multiple professors are bringing up the issue of whether Bethel will tap into the changing demographics or if, as a university, it will let it pass by. With this change, DeYoung and Rivera believe that Bethel needs to follow this lead because of both economic and business reasons and the Christian motives.
“I believe that being a Christian college we should be committed to reconciliation and diversity,” DeYoung said.
One question that has surfaced is whether Bethel can afford to diversify at this point in its financial health. Rivera stated that Bethel is a tuition dependent school and has never received a strong endowment. He claims that Bethel has always had a church model of funding through donations.
“There are people doing this out there, where are they getting the money?” Rivera said.
According to DeYoung, increasing the diversity at Bethel will help to better its financial state in the long term. In the short term, it may be expensive but this will shift eventually. Both him and Rivera believe that for this to happen Bethel has to work on bringing in students from more diverse areas and work on its ability to retain these students.
“One thing that is being worked on is to strengthen our programs in retention, for all students, but especially students of color,” DeYoung said.
DeYoung discussed how careers are going to be diverse when students enter the outside world, and they need to be prepared. According to him, if Bethel’s alumni get 20-25 years out of college and are not prepared for the world, they are not going to contribute to the university, meaning that it will have many long-term implications.
“How are we going to reach these people for God?” Rivera asked.
According to Rivera someone out there is going to reach them, so why not Bethel? He believes that it is going to be hard on Bethel financially in the beginning, but everything that is worth doing is hard.
By reaching toward different ethnicities to attend Bethel, Rivera believes the university will take part in helping close the academic achievement gap that exists in America.
Both Rivera and DeYoung believe there are certain steps Bethel should begin to take to further their reach toward people of different ethnicities. To begin, the university needs to look at schools that are doing this same thing.
According to Rivera and DeYoung, schools should then partner with local churches in the community. They added that Bethel needs to strengthen its programs in retention and make the university climate welcoming and empowering for students of color.
“We need to diversify faculty, staff and administration so that when people arrive to visit they see people like themselves,” DeYoung said. He believes that when students come to Bethel to visit they need to be able to see mentors and faculty members out of their own communities.
“We’ve read some of those scriptures that say to go into all of the world, but the truth is the world is coming to us and we have to invite them in,” DeYoung said.