Two panelists at a forum Monday night said a recent apparent decline in the number of African-American students coming to the University of Virginia is primarily due to financial conditions, along with related factors.

Valerie Gregory, associate dean of admission, and Deborah McDowell, director of UVA’s Carter G. Woodson Institute of African-American and African Studies, discussed with an audience of about 75 people in the Minor Hall auditorium long-term changes in the economy, politics and education that present obstacles to African-American enrollment.

The scope of the issue is not clear, due to changes in how the race of students is counted.

Determining the number of African-American undergraduates at UVA was relatively straightforward in the years prior to 2009. According to University records, there were 1,366 black undergraduates in 1991, for example, and 1,199 in 2008.

But in 2009, new federal guidelines changed how records are collected and maintained about the race of students. Beginning in that year, students were able to select more than one race on University enrollment records. If, for example, a student checked off both “African-American” and “Asian-American,” that student would be recorded in a new category called “Multi-Racial American.” Students who did so were not included in the count for the African-American category.

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