College Students Are More Diverse Than Ever. Faculty and Administrators Are Not

Diverse Issues in Higher Education, July 11, 2019 | Go to article overview

College Students Are More Diverse Than Ever. Faculty and Administrators Are Not


The student population in US higher education is more diverse than ever. According to a new report by the American Council on Education, Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education: A Status Report, students of color made up just 29.6 percent of the undergraduate student population in 1996, increasing to 45.2 percent in 2016. The share of graduate students of color increased from 20.8 to 32.0 percent in the same time period. However, despite these gains, many areas of higher education continue to underserve and underrepresent students of color. With more than two hundred indicators, the report disaggregates student enrollment, persistence, and completion rates as well as economic indicators like borrowing, debt, and unemployment after graduation. The report also examines the racial and ethnic makeup of full-time faculty, staff, and administrators, finding that these positions of power in the academy remain "predominantly White."

A Diversifying Student Population

* Since 1997, the US population has grown more and more diverse. In 2017, the population was 61 percent White, 18 percent Hispanic, 12.3 percent Black, 5.7 percent Asian, 1.9 percent one or more race, 0.7 percent American Indian or Alaska Native, and 0.3 percent Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander.

* Among the total population of "traditional" college-age students (eighteen- to twenty-four-year-olds), 40.9 percent were enrolled in college in 2016 compared with 35.5 percent in 1996.

* A big part of the increasing diversity in higher education is "a growing Hispanic population that is seeking higher education at levels not before seen," the report said. "For Hispanics in 2017, each 10-year age cohort had higher rates of college attainment than the nextoldest group."

* Overall, Asian young adults (57.2 percent) were the most likely to enroll in college, while Native Hawaiians or other Pacific Islanders (20.4 percent) and American Indians or Alaska Natives (18.8 percent) were the least likely.

* More recent high school graduates ages sixteen to twenty-four were enrolled in college in 2016 than in 1996 (69.5 percent, compared with 64.7 percent). Black young adults with a high school diploma (or similar degree) are significantly less likely than others to enroll in college shortly after graduating (see fig. 1).

* The share of Hispanic high school graduates attending college had the largest increase of 13 percentage points in those twenty years, while the share of Black high school graduates increased just 1.1 percentage points.

Achievement Gaps in Enrollment and Achievement

* In 2017, more Americans twenty-five years old and older had received at least an associate's degree than at any point in the last twenty years (44.5 percent, compared with 31.1 percent in 1997).

* Though more and more Hispanic students are enrolling, Hispanic men and women and American Indian or Alaska Native men were the least likely to have received a higher education in 2017, "with most holding a high school credential or less (ranging from 54.5 percent among American Indian or Alaska Native men to 63.4 percent among Hispanic men)," the report said. …

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