Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Latino College Students Lag in Enrollment at Selective Colleges

While Latinos are making great gains in college enrollment, a new study finds that they are largely shut out of the most selective institutions.

The new report, “Separate and Unequal: How Higher Education Reinforces the Intergenerational Reproduction of White Racial Privilege,” was released by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. It calls the story of minority college access a “good news – bad news” story.

“We found, as others have before us, that, in fact, that while more and more minorities are going on to college, that the system itself was becoming even more unequal,” the center’s director, Anthony Carnevale, told NPR. “That is, we were getting more and more access, and access was bringing more and more inequality, and the inequality mattered.”

The report examined 4,400 higher education institutions based on enrollment by race and selectivity. They identified 468 four-year selective colleges and universities, and found that since 1995, about 82 percent of newly enrolled white students had gone to those schools. Meanwhile, about 72 percent of Hispanic students and 68 percent of black students enrolled in open-access community colleges and two-year institutions.

According to the report, black and Hispanic students make up about 36 percent of students at the open-access schools and only 14 percent of students at the most selective four-year colleges. Meanwhile, they make up about one-third of the college-aged population.

Carnevale said that while many minority students may not be prepared for a highly competitive university, many others are prepared but don’t end up going.

The report says that black and Hispanic “A” students are more likely to go to community colleges (30 percent) than white “A” students (22 percent).

Now one could argue that many successful people attend schools that are open enrollment. But the report also says that attending more selective schools offers higher future earnings in later careers and higher rates of graduate school enrollment, among other benefits. According to the research, graduates of the most selective schools early $67,000 on average 10 years after graduation, compared with $49,000 for graduates of two- and four-year open access colleges.

In the NPR interview, Carnevale acknowledged that incorporating “white racial privilege” into the title of the study was a tough decision and he added that “it took me a while to be able to write that title down.” He said some reaction has been quite negative because people are “weary of struggling with race.”

If you are reporting on a successful student, it’s worth delving into what colleges they are considering. Are they aiming high enough? Who is advising them on applications? If they are not applying to competitive institutions, why?