Jake B. Schrum, president of Southwestern University, championed Monday’s Supreme Court Ruling that upholds affirmative action in colleges and universities and said Southwestern would continue the alternative scholarship program put in place following the Hopwood Decision that has helped position Southwestern as one of the most diverse premiere liberal arts colleges in the country.

“Our Supreme Court has recognized and, ultimately validated what most Americans believe–that affirmative action in higher education institutions is vital to ensure equal access to the finest educational opportunities offered,” said Schrum.

The Hopwood decision made it illegal in Texas and two other states to consider race in admission and financial aid determinations. As a result, Southwestern, one of Texas’ small, private liberal arts colleges which annually enrolls an average of 1,250 students, saw its minority enrollment plummet from more than 20 percent of the student body to just over 10 percent of total enrollment. In response, the University, which is affiliated with the United Methodist Church, partnered with the Texas Methodist Foundation to establish the Dixon Scholarship Program, named after Ernest Dixon, one of the state’s first African American bishops. African American, Hispanic or Native American students who apply to and are accepted by Southwestern can apply through the Texas Methodist Foundation for Dixon Scholarships ranging from $5,000 annually to full tuition.

Inaugurated in 1999, the first class of Dixon Scholars graduated in May 2003. Among the success stories of the program are graduates pursuing advanced studies at Harvard University and Emory University or moving into teaching, non-profit and other professional careers.

The program annually ensures that Southwestern’s minority student enrollment continues to grow. With a Fall 2002 minority enrollment of 22 percent–more than half of which was comprised of Hispanics–Southwestern is recruiting minority students in record numbers. Minorities comprised 25 percent of the entering first-year class in Fall 2002. This fall, admission officials anticipate a first-year class comprised of 22 percent minority students. Among those students is an entering class of 13 Dixon Scholars.

“Whether at a large, public university like the University of Texas or the University of Michigan or a small, private college like Southwestern University, students of color who have demonstrated the potential to succeed in high school stand marvelous chances of succeeding in what clearly are some of the most rigorous educational programs offered throughout our nation,” said Schrum. “That is what affirmative action in college admission is all about, and that is one of the primary roles–a societal good from a social institution–which a majority of Americans expect our colleges and universities to perform.”

Indeed, a survey of American adults released recently by the “Chronicle of Higher Education” reports that 77 percent believe that preparing students from minority groups to be more successful is an important or very important role for colleges and universities. Nearly six out of ten, 58 percent, agree or strongly agree that affirmative action programs at colleges and universities contribute to the well-being of society.