Minorities in Higher Education

The under-representation of minorities in higher education has long been a concern of educators. Attaining a quality higher education ensures a wider pool of career opportunities. A good job is a crucial component in having better quality of life.

A report issued by the American Council on Education (ACE) in 1997 stated that minority students had made modest gains in enrollment on college campuses throughout the United States. The rate of college-bound minority students had risen 3.7 percent from 1996 to 1997, which represented a slight increase compared to the 3.2 percent rise of 1995. African Americans showed the most significant increase in representation among minority college-bound students and rose in college participation by 4 percentage points to reach a rate of 39.8 percent. Hispanic students, by contrast, rose in college participation by a single percentage point to 36 percent during the same period.

Even with these promising numbers, African Americans and other minorities continued to trail behind their white counterparts in college attendance rates at the end of the 20th century. The same ACE report, the Seventeenth Annual Status Report on Minorities in Higher Education, found that white students had reached their highest record yet for college participation at 45.3 percent. While the gap in college participation was still great between minority and white students, authors of the report remained optimistic, stating that enrollment had increased in spite of rollbacks in affirmative action in Texas and California.

In part, these increases were due to recognition by students of color of the importance of higher education in getting ahead. Also, colleges began to engage in outreach among minority populations to encourage enrollment. Nevertheless, some experts still felt that more had to be done on a national level to prioritize minorities attaining higher education.

In addition to increases in college enrollment and participation, minority students were also earning more degrees every year. However, minorities were less than well-represented at the level of bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees. During the course of one decade, from 1987 to 1997, the percentage of bachelor's degrees awarded to minority students rose from 12.1 percent to 19.8 percent. The proportion of first-time professional degrees earned by minority students increased by 11.2 percent to 21 percent during the same time span.

A more recent ACE report, from 2001–2002, found that minorities accounted for 33 percent of college students in two-year colleges, 24 percent in four-year colleges and just 19 percent in graduate school. During the same year, minorities were awarded 28 percent of all two-year college associate degrees, 22 percent of all four-year bachelor's degrees, 17 percent of all master's degrees and 11 percent of all doctorate degrees. Thus, in the 21st century, minorities still have a way to go in achieving academic parity with their white counterparts.

Experts say that the disparity between whites and minorities in enrollment rates, rates of graduation and career opportunities proves a need for more financial aid, better teachers and an increase in advanced placement (AP) courses at the high school level. Another factor that contributes to the failure to attain a higher education is the need of college-age minorities from low-income homes to assist in the support of their families. Students may not be able to cope with college studies on top of a strenuous workload. This state of affairs has led some experts to posit that increased federal funds should be made available to fund the educations of students from low-income households.

Another factor attributed to the gap in learning between whites and minorities is the idea that students from disadvantaged homes suffer much situational stress during elementary and high school that affects their ability to pursue a higher education. Family instability has been shown to be a common problem in poverty-stricken homes. Poor families move more often, in particular those disadvantaged families who live in urban centers. These families may not realize the effect that school changes can have upon a child's current and future academic career.

Also significant as a factor affecting the achievement gap experienced by minorities is parental education levels. White parents, having more likely attained a higher level of education, well understand the positive impact of a college degree. These parents will encourage their children to go to college, but minority parents may see higher education as a waste of money with time better spent on earning a living.

Some suggest the gap could be narrowed by offering supplemental education at the primary and high school levels to broaden and develop the educational horizons of minority children. Others insist the sure path to a higher education for minorities is in optimizing primary and high school efficiency. Replacing "deadwood" teachers with those of quality, for example, might help motivate minority students to continue their studies after high school.

Minorities in Higher Education: Selected full-text books and articles

No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal: Race and Class in Elite College Admission and Campus Life By Thomas J. Espenshade; Alexandria Walton Radford; Chang Young Chung Princeton University Press, 2009
Race and Class Matters at an Elite College By Elizabeth Aries Temple University Press, 2008
Taming the River: Negotiating the Academic, Financial, and Social Currents in Selective Colleges and Universities By Camille Z. Charles; Mary J. Fischer; Margarita A. Mooney; Douglas S. Massey; Gniesha Dinwiddie; Brooke Cunningham Princeton University Press, 2009
Librarian's tip: Chap. 5 "Battling Social Undercurrents," Chap. 6 "The Hidden Rocks of Segregation," Chap. 7 "The Shoals of Stereotypes," Chap. 8 "The Wake from Affirmative Action"
The Effort-Outcome Gap: Differences for African American and Hispanic Community College Students in Student Engagement and Academic Achievement By Greene, Thomas G.; Marti, C. Nathan; McClenney, Kay Journal of Higher Education, Vol. 79, No. 5, September-October 2008
Identities and Social-Psychological Well-Being among African American College Students By Reitzes, Donald C.; Jaret, Charles Sociological Focus, Vol. 40, No. 4, November 2007
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Perceptions of Classroom Belongingness among African American College Students By Booker, Keonya C College Student Journal, Vol. 41, No. 1, March 2007
African American College Students and Stress: School Racial Composition, Self-Esteem and Social Support By Negga, Feven; Applewhite, Sheldon; Livingston, Ivor College Student Journal, Vol. 41, No. 4, December 2007
It's about Family: Native American Student Persistence in Higher Education By Guillory, Raphael M.; Wolverton, Mimi Journal of Higher Education, Vol. 79, No. 1, January-February 2008
UCLA Community College Review: The Overlooked Minority: Asian Pacific American Students at Community Colleges By Lew, Jonathan W.; Chang, June C.; Wang, Winnie W Community College Review, Vol. 33, No. 2, Winter 2005
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
The Experience of Being a Junior Minority Female Faculty Member By Boyd, Tammy; Cintron, Rosa; Alexander-Snow, Mia Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table, Summer 2010
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Retaining Minority Students in Higher Education: A Framework for Success By Watson Scott Swail; Kenneth E. Redd; Laura W. Perna Wiley Subscription Services, 2003
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