Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Undergraduate Enrollment in the Big 10 Public Universities: Exploring Enrollment of African Americans and Hispanics from 2002-2011

The Engines of Inequality report (Gerald & Haycock, 2006) indicates that despite an abundance of resources, flagship universities are not doing a sufficient job in providing access or funds to underrepresented groups. Recently, Carnevale and Strohl (2013)  expanded this line of research to include the top 468 most selective schools and found that flagship schools were not alone in lack of active initiatives toward enrolling underrepresented students.  Their research suggested that due to social structure being white students generally hail from higher SES, benefiting from increased resources, opportunities, and social capitol result a higher chance these students will end up in an elite university.  Furthermore, when this social unbalance is combined with the lack of outreach and effort from elite educational institutions, these organizations have become passively complicit in “the systematic reproduction of white racial privilege across generations” (p. 7).  

This line of research is important because of what it means financially means for African Americans and Hispanics to have access to elite institutions.  Pew Research Center (2011) has conducted research on the effects that the recession had on four major racial groups. Before the recession, African Americans ($12,124) and Hispanics ($18,359) were already well behind the average White ($134,992) net worth; as Asian ($168,103) net worth was above.  Yet in post-recession 2009, this wealth had dramatically declined affecting the minority groups more heavily.  African Americans ($5,677) experienced a 54% decline, Hispanic ($6,325) wealth declined 66%, Asian ($78,066) wealth declined by 54%, and White ($113,149) wealth declined by just 15%.   

Access to prestigious schools are important to advanced financial security.  Hoekstra (2009) found there was significant differences in earnings between students who went to a flag-ship university and those who were academically similar but rejected from the university, with those who went to the flag-ship earning roughly 20% more.  Specifically regarding underrepresented groups, research has found that African Americans and Hispanics who attended more selective schools had a more positive return on investment (Dale and Krueger (2011), suggesting that income of these individuals are in-fact higher and the social benefit is more significant.

Across the public universities in the Big 10, Caucasian students have been on a decreasing trend as noticeable increases can be attributed to Hispanic and Non-Resident Alien students.  The data suggests that Big 10 public universities are the exact school that both reports are referring to when highlighting major disparities between the total enrolled and enrollment of underrepresented groups.

The only minority group that is actively decreasing in percentile owned of total enrollment in the Big 10 are African Americans.  Although the decrease is statistically moderate, forecasting indicates that if these trends stay consistent by 2015 undergraduate African Americans will be down from 5.2% to 4.6% of total enrollment and by 2020 that will drop to 3.9%.  

Conversely, these universities are showing increase support toward Hispanic students.   From 2002-2011 The average Big 10 increase of this group is 2.59%.  In 2011, Hispanic undergraduate students have almost caught up to African American students owning 4.9% of all enrollment and is forecasted to own 7% of all undergraduate Big 10 enrollment by 2020.  Rutgers and Maryland bolstering this system’s Hispanic enrollment; without their inclusion the Big 10 average Hispanic enrollment would be roughly at 4.0%.

Since African Americans own the lowest wealth and are the only minority group on a declining trend, a deeper investigation into individual university’s actions is warranted.  Much like with the Hispanic population, Maryland and Rutgers’ enrollment significantly bolster the totals by enrolling roughly 3000 students and are the only two universities that in 2011 African Americans owned over 7% of total enrollment.  Without these institutions the highest enrollment would had been Michigan State with 6.5% and the average Big 10 percentage of enrollment would drop from 5.2% to 4.0%. 

When reports come out that indicate elite universities are either active or passive participants in perpetuating inequality, the data indicates that these universities not only contribute to that argument, but are in fact the drivers.   It is clear that the Big 10 and many universities within the system is not showing an active interest in at minimum retaining African Americans populations.   As the Booking Institute suggests, without access to these types of universities we can expect this group to remain within the bottom socio-economic levels of our society. 

It is absolutely imperative that the Big 10 public institutions start actively finding the talent in this demographic that is ready for an elite institution but instead go to lower ranked, non-competitive schools.

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