REPORT: Higher Education Is ‘Separate And Unequal’ For Minority Students

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"REPORT: Higher Education Is ‘Separate And Unequal’ For Minority Students"

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A new report from the Center for Education and the Workforce at Georgetown has harsh conclusions for the higher education system: Minority students are at a continued disadvantage in attending selective colleges.

The report describes the demographics of selective colleges compared to those that admit more than 85 percent of applicants and whose students have below C averages, or what it calls open-access colleges. Selective colleges tout a disproportionate amount of white students, even as the percentage of overall students who are white dwindles. The report states, “More than 30 percent of African Americans and Hispanics with a high school grade point average (GPA) higher than 3.5 go to community colleges compared with 22 percent of whites with the same GPA.”

The best and the brightest minority students aren’t accessing the selective schools they should be in, but rather end up in those that don’t invest as much in students. The completion rate for open-access colleges is a mere 49 percent, compared to 82 percent of selective schools. Seventy-two percent of African American students are concentrated in the least-funded schools.

Meanwhile, whites are more likely go on to graduate school because they attended a selective school. Selective schools also provide for much better economic outcomes, which could have generational effects. If minority students attended them at higher rates, it would allow their sons and daughters to benefit from their parents’ income mobility.

Recent evidence has challenged the quality of the schools many minorities are attending. For example, they are likely to produce more people who default on loans than graduates. Low-income students who take out loans are also at risk for not graduating. A recent study found that students who had money saved for college were more likely to graduate than those who did not.

However, change in higher education might be on its way. Politicians are looking for ways to help students save for college with government programs and a group of former higher education officials and politicians are looking at reforming the governing boards of institutions in an effort to control costs.

Kirsten Gibson is an intern for ThinkProgress.

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