Two days ago, the Washington Post published an article, “Minority entrollment in college still lagging.” The actual numbers it gives show some underrepresentation of minorities in college, but not that much, and not for all minority groups.
Minority enrollments rose by 50.7% to 4.7 million between 1993 and 2003, while the number of white students increased 3.4%, to 10.5 million, the report says.
White high school graduates are more likely than black or Hispanic peers to enroll in college. The report says 47.3% of white high school graduates ages 18 to 24 attend college, vs. 41.1% of black and 35.2% of Hispanic high school graduates.
Among students who entered college in 1995-96, 36.4% of blacks and 42% of Hispanics earned a bachelor’s degree within six years, vs. 58% of whites and 62.3% of Asian-Americans.
By 2003, most minority groups’ representation among college students was nearly equal to their nationwide representation. The total number of college students of known race in the US is 15.2 million. Of these, 1.9 million are black, representing 12.5% of students compared with 13.5% of Americans; 1.6 million are Hispanic, representing 10.5% of students compared with 14.5% of Americans; just under a million are Asian, representing 6.6% of students compared with 4.3% of the population; and 163,000 are Native American, representing 1.1% of students compared with 0.8% of the population.
Of course, these numbers are somewhat skewed, especially for Hispanics. There are more than 14.5% Hispanics among Americans aged 18 to 24, obviously. So the underrepresentation of Hispanics in US universities is even more acute, though it’s also the one that’s getting better the fastest (between 1993 and 2003, white enrollment increased 3.4%, nonwhite enrollment increased 50.7%, and Hispanic enrollment increased 70%).
The overall minority increases are encouraging, “but we are also concerned by what still seems to be slow growth,” says Beverly Daniel Tatum, president of Spelman College, a historically black college for women in Atlanta, and chair of a commission that produces the annual report. “While we see forward movement, it is incremental and not transformational.”
That, she says, would require better preparation and encouragement in elementary and high schools. “Students of color often have limited access to the courses they need … (and) college guidance,” Tatum says. And a key reason some minority college students don’t persist is because “they’re simply running out of money.”
In other words, since black and Hispanic Americans go to underfunded public schools and have to deal with mounting tuition, they have lower rates of going to college and higher rates of attrition.