More students of color are attending college, but achievement gaps persist, finds a new report on race and ethnicity in higher education from the American Council on Education (ACE).
The researchers at ACE analyzed data from federal sources, like the Census Bureau, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Department of Education, and nonfederal sources, like the American Community Survey and the American College President study. They compared changes over a 20-year period (1996 to 2017 for some comparisons, 1997-2017 for others) in areas such as undergraduate enrollment and graduation, student debt, and composition of college faculty and staff.
Michel Nietzel, president emeritus at Missouri State University, rounds up several key takeaways from the study for Forbes.
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1. More students of color are attending college
Students of color now make up 45.2% of the undergraduate population, compared with 29.6% two decades ago, the report found. Hispanic students have shown the most growth; 10.3% attended college in 1996 compared to 19.8% in 2016.
2. Black and Hispanic students lag in college completion
For the 2011 cohort of students entering a four-year public college, more than 70% of Asian students and white students completed a degree within six years. By contrast, only 55.7% of Hispanic students and 46% of black students completed a degree within six years. At private four-year colleges, more than 80% of Asian and white students completed a degree within six years, versus 72.3% of Hispanic students, and 57.3% of black students.
3. Graduates of color face greater debt
Black students owed 15% more than other students after graduation with an average debt of $34,010 compared with $29,669 for all students, writes Sarah Brown for the Chronicle of Higher Education. One-third of black students accumulated more than $40,000 in debt after graduation, versus 18% of students over all.
Black students were also more likely to borrow money for college, writes Nietzel. Among recipients of a bachelor’s degree in 2016, 86.4% of black graduates had borrowed money to finance their education, compared to 70.3% of white students, 67.3% of Hispanic students, and 58.7% of Asian students.
4. Hispanic and black students are less likely to study STEM
Only 12.6% of black graduates and 16.7% of Hispanic graduates majored in STEM fields, compared to 20.5% of white grads and 34.7% of Asian grads. And while more black and Hispanic students are completing graduate school, they remain underrepresented among master’s degree recipients in STEM disciplines, notes Nietzel.
5. College faculty, staff, and presidents are less diverse than students
Of the more than 700,000 full-time faculty in 2016, 73.2% were white and 21.6% were people of color (9.3% Asian, 5.7% black, and 4.7% Hispanic). As of 2016, 83.2% of college presidents were white and 16.8% were people of color. The most diverse group of administrators were in student affairs offices, with one-fourth of those staff identifying as minorities, notes Brown