Studies: Racial Gap Persists in Higher Education
Posted By Marisa Sanfilippo on June 28, 2017 at 9:57 pm
Recent studies on race and ethnicity illustrate a significant demographic shift in the United States. The country will be primarily a minority nation within three decades. However, the racial gap in higher education does not appear to be declining at an equal rate.
A diverse nation
A Pew Research Center study reveals that minority babies became the majority of the nation’s infants in 2015. The number of babies born in the United States younger than one year old who were ethnic or racial minorities exceeded that of non-Hispanic white babies by only about 10,000.
While this number may seem relatively small when considering the total number of births was nearly 4 million, it does accurately reflect a prediction from the U.S. Census Bureau that by 2060, minorities will become the majority.
The racial gap in postsecondary studies
The Young Invincibles, a national group that gives a voice to young people, recently released a study that evaluates the state of race and racism in the arena of higher education. The study identified core problems including the following:
- Access to higher education, which has improved although enrollment remains stratified along racial and ethnic lines.
- Significant disparities in the affordability of higher education among minority students.
- Too few applications for financial aid from minority students.
- The success and attainment gap has grown exponentially and is too readily accepted.
- Significant disparities in student loan repayment.
The group makes a point to differentiate between the terms equity and equality in their call for change in higher education. For the purposes of the report, equity is defined as being about fairness and states that “advancing it ensures that each person gets what he or she needs for a fair chance of success.”
This is different from equality which is ensuring each person is given the same thing. The solutions proposed by the group advance equity as an acknowledgement that many minority students have significant disadvantages that require greater resources to have a fair chance at success.
Researchers believe that closing the racial gap in higher education will eventually lead to a decrease in the employment gap as well.
Real world academia
Dr. Luz Claudio, professor of preventive medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and author of How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper, shared her insight as a minority in academia. As a Puerto Rican woman, she has experienced the racial gap in higher education as both a student and a tenured professor.
Claudio noted that she has seen progress in terms of the numbers of minority students as well as scientists and physicians at some institutions but not at a pace in keeping with the growth of the minority population nationwide.
One of the more positive developments, in her experience, “I’ve certainly seen an increasing pool of qualified minority applicants for my programs. I would say that the quality and quantity of minority applicants for training programs have increased.” Specifically, her numbers have tripled in the past five years.
Along with the increase, she has noticed an intangible increase in the confidence in her minority trainees. She is hopeful that the shift in quantity and quality of participants in higher education programs within the fields of medicine and science will eventually result in higher numbers of minority leaders within the same fields.
Millennials and race
Millennials frequently are cited as being the bridge between racism and a society that embraces equality. Unfortunately, this may not be true. While there are certainly more minority members among millennials than in previous generations, new data continues to support that racial views have not changed substantially.
In part, this is due to surveys that ask participants to self-report their views on race. Many of these have been published during the past decade that seemed to indicate millennials were more tolerant and accepting than previous generations.
When surveys ask indirect questions to more accurately gauge authentic responses, however, it appears that millennials are not more tolerant than previous generations.
One of the most recent surveys performed in conjunction with MTV seems to point to the idea that by willfully ignoring race, millennials unconsciously perpetuate racism. While many respondents do believe in equality, they also appear to believe that racism can be removed by simply not talking about it.
Further, the results indicate that a large number of millennials believe the government should pay less attention to minority groups while a majority of minorities believe their white counterparts have greater opportunities.