Friday, August 2, 2013
On Wednesday, the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce released a study titled "Separate and Unequal: How Higher Education Reinforces the Intergenerational Reproduction of White Racial Privilege." The study begins with the bold finding that: "The postsecondary system mimics the racial inequality it inherits from the K-12 education system, then magnifies and projects that inequality into the labor market and society at large. In theory, the education system is colorblind; but, in fact, it is racially polarized and exacerbates the intergenerational reproduction of white racial privilege." It goes on to emphasize that there is good news, which is that access to higher education over the past 15 years has increased, particulary for minority students. The problem is that, "despite increasing access, there are two separate postsecondary pathways: one for whites and another for Hispanics and African Americans. Whites have captured most of the enrollment growth at the 468 most selective and well-funded four-year colleges, while African Americans and Hispanics have captured most of the enrollment growth at the increasingly overcrowded and under-resourced open-access two- and four-year colleges." Moreover, these different enrollment patterns are not fully explained by different college readiness. Rather, even highly qualified minorities disproportionately enroll in less selective or open access colleges, whereas whites, across the spectrum, disproportionately attend selective colleges. This differential enrollment is also troubling because graduation rates are much lower at less selective and open access colleges. In fact, highly qualified students graduate at a lower rate from these collleges than do less qualified students who attend highly selective colleges. In other words, this so-called "mismatch," whereby minorities attend colleges and universities that do not match their academic potential, decreases their chance of educational success and life opportunities.