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For all the talk in higher ed about increasing diversity, historically marginalized racial and ethnic populations are still underrepresented among college students, faculty and administrators, according to a new report from McKinsey & Company.

“These findings are not novel, but what is significant is the slow rate of progress,” notes the report, titled “Racial and ethnic equity in US higher education.”

At the current pace, it would take roughly 70 years for all not-for-profit institutions to accurately reflect in their incoming student bodies the share of racial and ethnic minorities in the general population—and that is driven primarily by increases in Hispanic and Latino students.

For Black and Native American students—and for faculty from all underrepresented groups—the numbers remained virtually stagnant from 2013 to 2020.

In 2018, 41 percent of all 18- to 21-year-olds were enrolled in undergraduate programs, compared to 37 percent of Black students, 36 percent of Hispanic students and 24 percent of Native American students.

The report also notes that students from underrepresented racial and ethnic populations graduate at lower rates.

It suggests five actions institutions can take to increase racial and ethnic diversity:

  • Reflect on their role in ongoing inequities.
  • Review current systems and processes.
  • Realign resources to address inequities.
  • Respond by incorporating new equity priorities into the culture.
  • Reform processes (such as legacy admissions) that propagate inequity.