New numbers from the American Council on Education (ACE) shed light on why certain racial and ethnic minorities–specifically African-Americans and Hispanics–have lower levels of postsecondary degree attainment. “The Education Gap: Understanding African-American and Hispanic Attainment Disparities in Higher Education” is the first in a series of four briefs on diversity and inclusion.
The report examines the degree or certificate attainment of college freshmen from different racial and ethnic groups who have met nine conditions for academic success. The nine conditions were chosen because, unlike inherent traits such as being the first in the family to attend college OR having a particular socioeconomic status, they can be influenced by deliberate efforts.
ACE officials said they hope the information will help education administrators understand why there are issues in diversity in college education and promote strategies by which more Black and Latino students can obtain college degrees.
“The reality is that many African-American and Hispanic students must endure challenges and obstacles even before college that can be detrimental to their chances of matriculating and graduating,” said Kim Bobby, director of ACE’s Inclusive Excellence Group. “As we strive to reach higher attainment rates, these inequities present a great challenge to the higher education community. We’re grateful for the continued support of the GE Foundation as we work together to develop scalable solutions to these problems.”
African-American and Hispanic students were less likely to take rigorous courses or earn college credit in high school, educational opportunities that enhance postsecondary academic success, according to the report. They also were more likely to defer entry into college, need remediation, attend part-time or complete fewer than 20 credits in the first year.
Any one of these conditions can have a negative impact, leading to lower levels of attainment, and many African-American and Hispanic students face more than one of these obstacles.
“These data show that racial and ethnic achievement gaps don’t happen overnight–they evolve over time,” said Mikyung Ryu, associate director of ACE’s Center for Policy Analysis and the brief’s author. “Because academic success is a cumulative process, by failing to meet one condition after another even after they enroll in college, some minority students face narrowing chances of success. The brief underscores that a one-time or one-dimensional policy will not move these students far enough toward college graduation and that the higher education community and our colleagues in K-12 must work together to take action.”
The “Diversity Matters in U.S. Higher Education” series is designed to provide campus leaders information they can share with the members of their campus community on a broad range of topics revolving around diversity and inclusion in U.S. higher education.