- A new study from the Center for American Progress reveals top public institutions in every state largely remain closed to minority students, while these students are overrepresented in less-selective public four-year institutions and community colleges.
- Black and American Indian or Alaskan Native students showed the worst flagship enrollment trends, at 9% each, with Latino students slightly ahead at 12%.
- The center noted that the states with lowest minority enrollment in the top-tier research institutions all have high black and Latino populations: North Carolina, Tennessee, Massachusetts, Arkansas, California, New Jersey, New York and Texas.
It is important to consider the role of student choice in these conversations, and the idea that not all students want to attend the state’s public flagship institution. The study notes that in North Carolina, a majority of black students enrolled in public universities attend historically black institutions, and though there are not as many HBCUs in Texas, Arkansas and Tennessee, they were also a factor in black student enrollment in those states.
But there are a number of institutional factors to be considered as well. The rising cost of education at a tier-one research institution often blocks out many students — and not just students of color, but those from rural communities as well. Not only that, but the recent proliferation of campus protests and discussions over safe spaces calls into question just how committed institutions are to ensuring access to education for all students. And this conversation would be incomplete without a discussion of the pipeline issues around the quality of education provided to at the primary and secondary level which would prepare students for enrollment at these major research institutions.
For the institutions in question, an honest self-assessment should be made about institutional climate and accessibility. Are the institutions making an effort to reach out to the best and brightest students from all socio-economic backgrounds and racial groups to facilitate a campus environment that is reflective of the nation’s demography? Or are they working more to maintain the elitism and systemic exclusion of members of those groups that has held since their founding?