Study: Black and Latino students missing out on selective colleges

Members of the graduation class of 2013 stand during the commencement ceremony before U.S. President Barack Obama delivers the key address at Morehouse College on May 19, 2013 in Atlanta, Ga.

If you imagine the American dream as a large red, white and blue balloon, our education system could be seen as a very sharp pin just waiting for something to pop.

A new study from Georgetown University, "Separate and Unequal,"  finds that although more Hispanics and African-Americans are going to college -- their access to the most selective schools isn't keeping pace.

According to Tony Carnevale, the study’s author and director of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, there are major perks for white students that their classmates are just not getting.

“This is not about old-fashioned vulgar racism. This is about the way the mechanics of our economy and education system are working together to produce racial inequality, across generations,” he says.

Over the course of his or her lifetime a white college graduate from one of the most selective schools can earn $2 million more, than a student who attends a less selective institution.

“In the end, the school you go to, whether it’s not selective or not, matters -- because money matters," says Carnevale.

Those most selective colleges -- the study identifies 468 of them -- spend more per student than less selective schools, from twice to nearly five times as much. That leads to higher graduation rates, which in turn can lead students more smoothly to graduate school.

But even though more African-American and Latino students are going to college, they’re not going to those top schools at the same rate as white students -- even if the students are equally qualified. Remember that Carnevale says this isn’t a result of outright racism;  instead, has says, it’s that people are just really good at passing down privilege between generations,  and white parents are more likely to have to gone to college.

Noliwee Rooks, author of "White Money/Black Power: The History of African American Studies and the Crisis of Race in Higher Education" and a professor of Africana studies at Cornell University, says when one segment of the American population falls behind it affects the whole.

“The way to ensure that intergenerational poverty is not passed on is through education. At the national, at the community and at the individual level, this kind of inequality ensures that these gaps continue and it’s not good for anyone,” she says.

Education, Rooks says, isn’t helping move some minorities forward; instead, it’s holding them back.

About the author

Sally Herships is a regular contributor to Marketplace.
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You only objected to one half of the preferential treatment of what colleges refer to as "hooked" candidates. You point out that minorities, in your opinion, are given preferential treatment in admissions. I hope you have similar angst when you realize that another hook is legacy status. Children of legacies are disproportionately white and affluent. These students also are admitted at a higher rate than the general application pool and have lower GPAs and SATs. You failed to mention your anger with rich white kids getting preferential treatment.

Another targeted group is now boys. Girls are now the majority at almost every select college. Schools are now lowering their standards for boys to keep the balance somewhat equitable. And since the majority of male candidates are white, this helps white men/boys more than any other segment.

So to ensure I have your point, you don't object to affluent families getting preferential treatment because of their legacy status. You also don't object to boys/men getting preferential treatment because they are now underrepresented. The only preferential treatment you cared to object to was when people of color are viewed as desirable to round out the student body. With hispanics and african americans making up less than 20% of college classes, your point is either uninformed or something more sinister.

"But even though more African-American and Latino students are going to college, they’re not going to those top schools at the same rate as white students -- even if the students are equally qualified."
Does anyone who recently sent kids to college believe this? We all know which group of students who are equally academically qualified get turned away from top colleges. These are not the groups mentioned in this article. American's top colleges are the only place that do not have to stick to the "qualified" rule. Imaging an Olympic basketball team consists of players who are not the top players in the country, this team is doomed to fail. Do we need to insist every minority group should have representation in this team?

The simplest answer for many minority students is to get into non traditional NCAA sports. Being an athlete of a sport that fields a team in the selective college will guarantee them acceptance into college especially if they have grades that aren't in the upper 10%. Instead of Basketball and football, try lacrosse, crew (rowing), golf, etc.

Charon123---A lot of people see that as a problem. That young African Americans have to be able to play a sport in order to get accepted into a top tier school.  Are you saying sports like lacrosse, crew and golf are played at more selective colleges? Thus giving minority students more access?


@charon123 Indeed athletic scholarships have opened doors for the sector of minorities that both excel in sports and do not have the best scores to compete otherwise but it is certainly not a guarantee for all in this sector not to mention for all other minorities outside of this sector that do not excel in sports and/or rank high in academics. As this article highlights, economic disparity across generations has a much broader affect. Whites and even minorities who have enjoyed several generations of strong economic status are able to afford more elite educational options than the not-so-fortunate even if academically all are the same. While what you stated is one solution, it is not a good fit for all in solving the bigger problem: how do we overcome the generational economic disadvantages in education?

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