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Ahead of the Curve

Augsburg leads in shaping higher education for Minnesota’s increasingly diverse population

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For more than five years, Augsburg College has undertaken important efforts to intentionally diversify the traditional undergraduate student profile. This work is not only a prudent move in terms of growing enrollment, but it is also proving to be an important factor in sustaining the region’s economic health.

This spring, more than 200 Augsburg College faculty and staff met with Minnesota State Demographer Susan Brower to discuss the “shape and scale” of the demographic trends in the state that will influence its vitality in the coming decades. Two significant trends detailed by Brower were the increasing diversity and aging of the state’s population – trends that heighten the importance of education now and into the future.

“We don’t have the capacity, going forward, to leave anyone behind.” —Susan Brower, Minnesota State Demographer

Education will grow in importance because the relative size of our workforce affects economic production and the strength of our region. As older adults retire in the next 20 years and the workforce shrinks in proportion to the overall population, Minnesota will need the skills and talents of the entire working-age population.

“Employers are going to have a much greater interest in bringing populations who previously may have been marginalized into productive work,” Brower said. “We don’t have the capacity, going forward, to leave anyone behind.”

For Augsburg, this demographic reality is significant because about 25 percent of college-bound Minnesota high school graduates express interest in Augsburg by applying, inquiring, or visiting campus. In order to successfully enroll and retain these students, Augsburg needs to be intentional about meeting the educational needs of this diversifying population.

Augsburg already has an important advantage in this area because, with nearly 33 percent students of color in the traditional undergraduate program, the College is one of the most diverse higher education institutions in the state. This is attractive to students of both minority and majority populations because it offers them the opportunity to learn and work with many different types of people, which is increasingly important given that the pace of demographic change will accelerate dramatically in the next 15 years.

Demographic Trend #1: Growing diversity.

If you went to college or lived in the Twin Cities before the 1990s, your experience with the diversity of the area’s population was different from today’s scenario.

Twin Cities Diversity Populations

A. Before 1980, fewer than 6 percent of the Twin Cities population were people of color, numbering only 25,000 to 115,000 people in the total population of 1.5 million to 2 million.

B. The Twin Cities experienced accelerated growth among populations of color from 1990 to 2010. During that time, people of color represented more than 80 percent of the overall population growth.

C. Today, the Twin Cities population is estimated at 3 million residents, with nearly 800,000—about 26 percent—people of color. This number is expected to reach 30 percent in the next 10 years.*

*Other areas of the United States are experiencing similar diversity growth. The U.S. population in 2010 was 36 percent people of color.
**Sources: 2, 3

What’s driving the growth in diversity?

  • Younger populations are more diverse. Approximately 25 percent of Minnesota residents younger than age 35 are people of color, whereas populations older than 65 years are predominantly white. So, as the entire population ages, overall diversity grows.
    **Sources: 2, 3
  • The number of foreign-born residents in Minnesota is growing. Minnesota, today, is home to nearly 400,000 foreign-born residents—a level not seen since the 1930s. By contrast, from 1960 through the 1990s, just more than 100,000 foreign-born people lived in the state.
    **Source: 4
  • Minnesota’s foreign-born population is increasingly diverse. In 1950, 80 percent of the foreign-born population in Minnesota was from Europe. Today, most foreign-born residents are from Mexico, Somalia, India, and Laos.
    **Source: 4

Demographic Trend #2: Our aging population.

Minnesota—and other regions of the United States—are experiencing an unprecedented aging of our populations.

Twin Cities Age Populations

How dramatic is the change?

Minnesota will add more than 620,000 older adults (age 65+) between 2010 and 2030. By contrast, during the 60 years from 1950 to 2010, the population of older adults grew by just 416,000.
**Source: 1

The size of the labor force is expected to stagnate in the coming decades while the 65+ population will double. As a result, the ratio of adults ages 18 to 64 relative to adults 65 and older will go from nearly 5 to 1 in 2010 to less than 2.5 to 1 in the next 25 years. That means there will be fewer working-age people in the population as a whole. That’s an important consideration because payroll taxes are critical for funding programs like Social Security and Medicare that the growing population of retired and elderly adults will increasingly draw upon.
**Sources: 2, 3

Twin Cities Age ratios

A commitment to diversity and inclusion

In 2015, Augsburg graduated its most diverse traditional undergraduate class in history, with more than 30 percent of graduates from underrepresented populations. In fact, every incoming first-year class since 2009 has included 30 to 40 percent students of color.

Augsburg also has identified faculty and staff diversity as a priority initiative in its Augsburg2019 strategic plan. As a first step, the College highlighted its commitment to intercultural competence, diversity, and inclusion in all job postings this past spring. An early result is that six of the College’s 10 new tenure-track faculty are from non-majority populations.

Augsburg also has named Joanne Reeck, director of Campus Activities and Orientation, as chief diversity officer. Reeck launched an intercultural competence program that involved more than 100 members of the campus community this spring and will expand to include a certificate program in the fall. These programs complement the diversity and inclusion workshops offered each May by the College’s Center for Teaching and Learning.

Augsburg’s work in intentional diversity has garnered attention from corporations and community organizations alike. For example, Wells Fargo recently donated $100,000 to Augsburg’s Center for Science, Business, and Religion specifically because of Augsburg’s proven work in educating underrepresented populations. Augsburg also recognizes that diversity extends well beyond ethnicity and provides award-winning programs for students who represent a diversity of ages, national origins, faith traditions, gender identities, and learning and physical differences.

“Of course, there is still much more we need to do,” Reeck said. “But we are committed to diversity and inclusion because it creates a richer educational environment and prepares our students to lead, innovate, and serve in a diverse and globally connected world.”

This work not only supports future graduates’ individual success, it creates a diverse and well-educated generation that’s critical to our collective future prosperity.

**Sources: 1. Minnesota State Demographic Center and U.S. Census Bureau. 2. Minnesota State Demographic Center and U.S. Census Bureau, Decennial Census and Population. 3. Estimates as presented by Minnesota Compass, 4. IPUMS version of U.S. Census Bureau’s 2010-2012 American Community Survey. Tabulated by the Minnesota State Demographic Center.

WEB EXTRA: This fall, Augsburg will launch a website showcasing the range of programs and opportunities the College offers to support diversity and inclusion. Visit to read definitions pertaining to this important work, and check back after September 1 for full details.


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