According to a new study, the phrase “it doesn’t matter what college you go to” is wrong, particularly for Black and Latino students.
Published last week by the Georgetown University Center for Education and Workforce, the study—authored by Anthony Carnevale and Jeff Strohl and titled “Separate & Unequal: How Higher Education Reinforces the Intergenerational Production of White Privilege”—revealed that a racial divide still exists when it comes to college admissions and that while Blacks and Hispanics have better access to schools, the so-called “elite” remain overwhelmingly white.
The Georgetown report found that since 1995, over 80 percent of all new enrollments by white students have come from America’s 468 most “elite and competitive” institutions.
And what about Blacks and Hispanics? Since 1995, over 70 percent of Black and Hispanic students have enrolled in America’s “open-access two-year and four-year colleges.” That includes community colleges and less-selective universities. Whites attending the same schools declined during the same period from 69 percent in 1995 to 57 percent in 2009.
And some critics have pointed to class discrimination being as much of an issue as race discrimation; the study points out that class issues are enhanced by race.
“African-Americans and Hispanics are especially vulnerable to class-based economic disadvantages because they are more concentrated in low-income groups and because they are more isolated both spatially and socially from the general society,” the study states. “African-Americans and Hispanics usually remain concentrated in poorer neighborhoods, even as individual family income increases. As a result, race gives additional power to the negative effects of low-income status and limits the positive effects of income gains, better schools and other educational improvements.”
The institution of higher learning that a student attends can also determine which tax bracket they will belong to. According to the study, “African-Americans and Hispanics gain 21 percent in earnings advantages when they attend the more selective schools compared with 15 percent for whites who attend the same colleges.”
Whites have also been largely responsible for the growth at the 468 most competitive colleges and universities at an 82 percent clip, whereas Blacks and Hispanics account for 9 and 13 percent of the increase in enrollment, respectively.
Even among the nation’s brightest students, when all parties had similar grades, skin color still played a major role when picking a college. More than 30 percent of Black and Hispanic students with a high school grade point average of 3.5 or higher attended a community college, compared to only 22 percent of whites with the same grades.
Income also played a role in where a student applied for college. According to the study, the “whiter” or more “elite” the institution, the higher the application fee. Stanford University, for example, has an application fee of $90.
But no matter what variables are involved, the study’s authors said race is a unique barrier when it comes to future success.
“Along with many other researchers, we find that the reason for persistent racial inequality begins with the fact that African-Americans and Hispanics seem to face barriers not faced by whites,” said the study’s report. “Unequal educational and career outcomes for economically disadvantaged whites can be explained with variables like family income, parental education and peer expectations. These same variables do not fully explain African-American and Hispanic educational and economic outcomes.
“Earlier research shows income effects are more fully explained by observable things, like peer group and tutoring, while differences by race are not so easy to pin down,” continued the report. “The preponderance of evidence supports the premise that the disadvantages of race and income must be considered separately in most cases. Yes, differences in readiness and income explain differences in academic and life outcomes; but, independently, so do race and ethnicity.”