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New Issue Brief Explores African American and Hispanic College Attainment Gaps

November 28, 2012


​A new issue brief from ACE sheds light on why certain racial and ethnic minorities—specifically African Americans and Hispanics—have lower levels of postsecondary degree attainment. The Education Gap: Understanding African American and Hispanic Attainment Disparities in Higher Education is the first in a series of four briefs on diversity and inclusion issues. The series is generously supported by the GE Foundation.

The Education Gap examines the degree or certificate attainment of college freshmen from different racial and ethnic groups who have met nine conditions for academic success. The nine conditions were chosen because, unlike inherent traits such as being the first in the family to attend college or having a particular socioeconomic status, they can be influenced by deliberate efforts.

"The reality is that many African American and Hispanic students must endure challenges and obstacles even before college that can be detrimental to their chances of matriculating and graduating," said Kim Bobby, director of ACE's Inclusive Excellence Group. "As we strive to reach higher attainment rates, these inequities present a great challenge to the higher education community. We're grateful for the continued support of the GE Foundation as we work together to develop scalable solutions to these problems."

The brief finds that African American and Hispanic students were less likely to take rigorous courses or earn college credit in high school, educational opportunities that enhance postsecondary academic success. They also were more likely to defer entry into college, need remediation, attend part-time, or complete fewer than 20 credits in the first year. Any one of these conditions can have a negative impact leading to lower levels of attainment, and many African American and Hispanic students face more than one of these obstacles.

"These data show that racial and ethnic achievement gaps don't happen overnight—they evolve over time," said Mikyung Ryu, associate director of ACE's Center for Policy Analysis and the brief's author. "Because academic success is a cumulative process, by failing to meet one condition after another even after they enroll in college, some minority students face narrowing chances of success. The brief underscores that a one-time or one-dimensional policy will not move these students far enough toward college graduation and that the higher education community and our colleagues in K-12 must work together to take action."

The brief, which is free to ACE member presidents and can also be purchased on ACE's website, is the first installment of the Diversity Matters in U.S. Higher Education series. The series is designed to provide campus leaders with timely, cutting-edge and actionable information they can share with the members of their campus community on a broad range of topics revolving around diversity and inclusion in U.S. higher education.

MEDIA CONTACT: Ginnie Titterton ▪ 202-939-9368 ▪

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