While public colleges and universities collectively enroll more than nine hundred thousand African-American students, very few are supporting those students adequately from admission through graduation, a report from the USC Race and Equity Center finds.
Based on data from the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Census, the report, Black Students at Public Colleges and Universities: A 50-State Report Card (42 pages, PDF), gives GPA-style grades to five hundred and six schools for their efforts in the areas of representational equity, gender equity, completion equity, and student-to-faculty racial ratios. (Historically black colleges and universities, tribal colleges, military academies, university health and medical institutes, graduate universities, community colleges, and public institutions that primarily confer associate's degrees were not included in the study.)
Funded by the Ford Foundation, the report ranked the performance of schools in Massachusetts (2.81), Washington (2.59), and California (2.46) at the top of the list, while schools in Louisiana (1.18), Nebraska (1.38), and North Dakota (1.38) ranked at the bottom. Among individual schools, the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, the University of California, San Diego, and the University of Louisville tied for the top score (3.5). According to the report, African Americans make up 14.6 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds in the country but only 9.8 percent of full-time degree-seeking undergraduates at public colleges and universities. The report also found that the average six-year graduation rate for African-American undergraduates lagged that of all undergraduates (39.4 percent vs. 50.6 percent), and that 41 percent of schools graduate fewer than a third of their African-American students.
The report's recommendations include improving admissions practices and better preparing African-American students; addressing gender-specific issues; investing in high school preparation, affordability, financial aid through Pell Grants, and higher levels of engagement inside and outside the classroom; and hiring and retaining more full-time African-American professors by committing to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
"Our research at the USC Race and Equity Center makes painfully clear that most people who work in higher education never learned much, if anything at all, about how to address racism or strategically achieve racial equity," said Shaun R. Harper, executive director of the USC Race and Equity Center and the Clifford and Betty Allen Chair in Urban Leadership at the USC Rossier School of Education. "Since those who are supposed to fix racial inequities on campuses were not taught how to do so, it is no surprise that widespread inequity continually persists."