Blacks attend underfunded ‘racially separate’ colleges

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Prospective students tour Georgetown University’s campus in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Despite high test scores and access to higher education, Black students often attend poorly-funded colleges and receive certificates instead of earning degrees, according to a recent report.

The report titled “Separate and Unequal,” by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, found that, “White students are increasingly concentrated today, relative to population share, in the nation’s 468 most well-funded, selective four-year colleges and universities while African-American and Hispanic students are more and more concentrated in the 3,250 least well-funded, open-access, two- and four-year colleges.”

According to the report, Black freshman enrollment increased by 73 percent compared to 15 percent for Whites freshman from 1995-2009, but 72 percent of Black college students attend resource-bare schools.

“The American postsecondary system increasingly has become a dual system of racially separate pathways, even as overall minority access to the postsecondary system has grown dramatically,” said Jeff Strohl, one of the report’s co-authors and the research director at the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

Blacks were underrepresented at the nation’s top schools by 8 percentage points, Whites were overrepresented by 13 percentage points compared to their share of the college age (18-24 years-old) population, the study found.

Blacks accounted for just 7 percent of freshmen student enrollment at the best 468 colleges and universities in the nation, compared to Whites students who captured a 75 percent share of the students attending top schools.

According to the report, “Eighty-two percent of the growth in white freshman enrollment has been in the nation’s 468 most selective four-year colleges from 1995-2009.” On the other hand, Blacks represented 48 percent of the enrollment in open-access schools, while Whites accounted for just 21 percent of the growth in such schools.

According to The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, a nonprofit organization that advocates for educational and training opportunities after high school, open-access schools are “public four-year colleges and universities that admit at least 80% of applicants.”

Georgetown researchers found that even when Blacks and Hispanics finish high school with good SAT/ACT test scores, they are still don’t go to college as much as their White counterparts and are often guided into two-year and open-access colleges.

“This data clearly shows that race matters, even controlling for readiness – high scoring African Americans and Hispanics go to college at the same rates as similarly high-scoring, Whites but drop out more often and are less likely to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree,” stated the report

Even as colleges and universities are urged to adopt race-neutral diversity policies for admission, the report found that admission policies based on class or income alone would not improve racial diversity in the our colleges and universities.

“While politically attractive, the direct substitution of class for race-based preferences does not yield the same numbers of African-American and Hispanic candidates as a more direct reliance on race-based admissions,” stated the report.

Only 12 percent of low-income Black college students graduate with bachelors’ degrees, compared to 23 percent of low-income Whites that earn bachelors’ degrees.

The bachelor’s degree is often seen as the gateway to higher lifetime earnings with more than $2 million in earnings separating those with bachelors’ degrees and those without them.

“African Americans and Hispanics gain 21 percent in earnings advantages when they attend the more selective schools compared with 15 percent for whites who attend the same colleges,” stated the report.

Researchers admitted that admission policies alone would not change the enrollment numbers for Blacks at high-achieving selective colleges and universities; that would take a concerted effort among policymakers.

“In combination, both race- and class-based affirmative action can ensure that highly qualified African- American, Hispanic, and lower-income students gain access to well-funded and selective colleges that lead to elite careers,” said the report. “Affirmative action, whether it is race- or class-based or some combination of the two, can help out those who strive and overcome the odds, yet does relatively little to change the odds themselves.”

The report stated: “Ultimately, there is no better way to guarantee a certain level of racial diversity than by employing race per se at some juncture in the selection process.”

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