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Racial Inequality in College Enrollment Patterns

November 14, 2018
 
 

A report released Tuesday by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce is warning that admission practices and inequality in state education funding are creating two separate and unequal tracks to public colleges and universities.

The report concludes that white students are disproportionately represented at selective public colleges and make up 64 percent of freshman enrollment despite only being 54 percent of the college-age population. Meanwhile, only 7 percent of black freshmen and 12 percent of Latino freshmen attend selective public colleges, despite making up 15 percent and 21 percent of the college-age population respectively.

The report notes that more than 340,000 black and Latino students score above average on standardized admission exams, but only 19 percent of these high-scoring students attend a selective college. Meanwhile, 31 percent of white students who score above average on the SAT attend a selective college.

“Like many factors in college admissions, the argument favoring marginal differences in test scores is just another name for affirmative action for already-privileged whites,” said Anthony Carnevale, director of CEW and lead author of the report. “There are far more black and Latino students with the qualifications to attend selective colleges than ever get to attend one.”

According to the reports, the gap in spending per student on instructional and academic support has widened in the past 10 years between selective and open-access public colleges. Fifteen states spend at least twice as much per student on selective institutions as they do on open-access colleges. The result is a system where students of color attend institutions with limited resources.

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