ACE Releases Supplement to Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education Report
November 16, 2020

ACE has released an important expansion to the seminal Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education: A Status Report.

This supplement delves deeper into students’ pre-college experiences, graduate and professional education, student loan debt, and postsecondary faculty and staff. It also seeks to address the lack of data available for Native students, highlighting the role that Tribal Colleges and Universities play in serving Native students and communities.

Among the key findings are evidence that K-12 and postsecondary educational institutions disproportionately fail Black or African American students. Data presented in the report showed, by the end of high school, Black students were less prepared than White students for college-level work. In 2015, 64.2 percent of all Black 12th graders were in the lowest achievement level for math and 47.6 percent were in the lowest achievement level for reading, and this pattern remained even when considering income and parental education levels. Fifty-three percent of all Black students who took the SAT in 2019 met none of the college and career readiness benchmarks, compared with 30 percent of all test takers, according to the report.

Once in postsecondary education, Black students in career and technical education were less likely to complete their credentials in potentially higher-paying fields. Finally, the representation of Black students enrolled in graduate education remained well below their total share among undergraduate students. Black students represented just 10.4 percent of master’s degree recipients and 7 percent of all doctoral and professional degree recipients between 2015 and 2017. Black students also represented just a small proportion of all students enrolled in dental (5.3 percent), medical (7.3 percent), and law (8.1 percent) school.

In addition, Black or African American, Native, and Hispanic or Latino students were much more likely than their Asian and White peers to enroll in and complete degrees at for-profit institutions, leading to higher borrowing rates and larger debt burdens than students enrolled in other sectors. Going deeper into borrowing patterns, the report finds Native and Black or African American students were more likely to borrow and more likely to face difficulty repaying their loans than other groups.

Across all positions and seniority levels, faculty, staff, and administrators remain less diverse than the student body. What’s more, the most diverse positions tend to be those outside of the classroom and leadership, meaning students of color are more likely to see people from similar backgrounds in clerical, technical, and service staff positions.

“These data could not be timelier, given our country’s renewed reckoning with its racist past and with a growing acknowledgment of the systemic racism and other forms of discrimination that persist today,” wrote the report’s authors. “The data in this supplement, like the 2019 report, shine a light on the stark differences in outcomes between White students and students of color, particularly Black or African American students. The extent of the inequalities documented here indicates that higher education and its leaders have a critical role to play.”

The supplemental report was authored by Morgan Taylor, Jonathan M. Turk, Hollie M. Chessman, part of ACE’s Research team, and Lorelle L. Espinosa, formerly ACE’s vice president for research and now program director at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

ACE launched the Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education project in 2019. It aims to provide a data-informed foundation from which the higher education community and its many stakeholders can examine racial disparities in educational opportunities and outcomes, draw insights, raise new questions, and make the case for why we must talk about racial equity gaps present in U.S. higher education. The 2019 report, Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education: A Status Report, examined over 200 indicators, looking at who gains access to a host of educational environments and experiences, and how students' trajectories differ by race and ethnicity.

Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education: 2020 Supplement and the microsite were made possible through the generous support of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.​

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