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The U.S. College System is Keeping White Privilege Alive

The U.S. College System is Keeping White Privilege Alive

For all their efforts to enroll more minority students, U.S. colleges and universities are becoming more polarized in terms of of race and ethnicity according to a just-published report from Georgetown University. That is, our current higher education system is not, as so often said, a pathway to the middle class for students. It is rather reinforcing existing distinctions of race, ethnicity and class.

The report, entitled “Separate and Unequal: How Higher Education Reinforces the Intergenerational Reproduction of White Racial Privilege,” describes U.S. higher education as

…a system in which elite selective colleges enroll predominantly white students while black and Hispanic students, even high-achieving ones, largely attend open-access institutions. Because the latter group of colleges spends less on instruction and sees lower shares of students through to graduation, higher education has thus become a “passive agent” in perpetuating white privilege.

College enrollment has increased for minority students: from 1995 to 2009, freshman enrollments for African-American students rose by 73 percent and, for Hispanic students, by 107 percent. Freshman enrollment for white students only rose by 15 percent, though one should take into account that a larger proportion of white students have been attending college all along.

In the time period (1995-2009) studied, most minority students ended up at “open-access” institutions with far less selective criteria for admission and, in many cases, far fewer resources, says the report:

…among white freshmen during that time, 82 percent of new enrollments were at the most selective four-year institutions, whereas most of the new freshman enrollments for Hispanic and African-American students—72 percent and 68 percent, respectively—were at open-access two- and four-year institutions.

Minority students who attend open-access institutions are only half as likely to attend more selective ones, the report found.

Other facts including low income and low parental education also play a part in why minority students are not finishing college, says Anthony P. Carnevale, the Georgetown center’s director and a co-author of the report. But he underscored that “race is an added vulnerability.”

How Do We End Inequality in U.S. Colleges?

Disparities in college graduate rates based on students’ race and economic backgrounds are not exactly news. “Stratification has been apparent for decades and has only gotten worse,” Michael A. Olivas, director of the Institute of Higher Education Law and Governance at the University of Houston, comments in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Olivas underscored the need for “more examination of legislative and legal solutions, and greater attention to the plight of immigrant students.”

To get more African-American and Hispanic students to apply to more selective institutions, Deborah A. Santiago, co-founder and vice president for policy and research at Excelencia in Education, an advocacy group for Latino students, suggests that such schools need to go beyond the usual admission events (college fairs at high schools). Schools need to reach out to students via their communities, by establishing partnerships with churches and other local organizations.

How About Offering Open-Access Schools More Support?

I’d also suggest that we acknowledge that just because a school is selective and has a worldwide reputation for education excellence does not mean it is the best school for everyone. While the graduation rate for students at open-access colleges is lower, there are still strategies that such schools can offer to more selective ones.

For the past eight years, I’ve taught at the sort of open-access school (whose students are predominantly African-American, Asian and Hispanic) that the Georgetown report refers to. I attended more selective schools for my own education and almost all of the students at my graduation were the same ones with whom I had started college four years earlier.

At the small university I teach at, it’s often the case that students take at least five years to graduate; more than a few withdraw and then return after some time (sometimes, quite a few years) has passed. All of my students have stories about financial setbacks and family and personal realities that meant their path to a college degree was not straightforward. Hearing these makes me think that, while there are certainly benefits to attending selective schools, there are advantages to attending open-access ones, where a student can live at or near home and have access to a network of family, friends and community organizations for support.

At a time when the word “debt” has become near synonymous with “a college education,” students who attend local schools often face lower rates for tuition, no extra costs for living in dormitories and paying for cafeteria contracts and can still work to help pay for the education. Accommodating for these realities — by having classes in the evening, for instance, or online — can play a small but significant role in ensuring a student stays in school and earns a degree.

Many have been questioning the value of a college degree as reports of students graduating with huge debts and minimal job prospects circulate. What about providing more resources for open-access schools or creating partnerships between such schools and selective ones? We only reinforce white privilege by assuming that selective schools hold the answers for helping every student.

 

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99 comments

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9:35PM PDT on Aug 16, 2013

SHAMEFUL!

5:21PM PDT on Aug 11, 2013

maybe it's a bit different there, but here there's no white privilege. There's tons of poor white people and they don't have an advantage getting a good paying job or getting into college, you get in through your grades, period. Jobs, you get lucky with them.

1:55PM PDT on Aug 8, 2013

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sLrj0Yk4BQo&feature=share&list=TLz-r6m8zfz2M

1:52PM PDT on Aug 8, 2013

QAs a black woman - who has a double Masters...here is the truth. This is a Pastor from Harlem who finally has it right. If your not afraid, watch the WHOLE video. This is truth and the truth will set you free!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sLrj0Yk4BQo&feature=share&list=TLz-r6m8zfz2M

11:58AM PDT on Aug 8, 2013

continued 2:

Now when you say "Crime and Punishment" yeah there is a HUGE disparity there. DWB is a crime it seems in too many places. I am not heartless nor stupid despite your insinuations Lisa (please don't bother defending yourself I doubt if you'll see it and I doubt you'll ever admit it)

That needs to be addressed. The insidiousness of that problem lies in the drug trade. Do drugs and you're white (100% if your rich) you do rehab. Do drugs and you're black (unless you're rich and part of the elite then see rich whites unless you're a rapper) you go to jail

I am aware of the problems

What I'm asking for is to stop alienating a large voting block that can turn Red States Blue tomorrow and be inclusive on how to take back our country. When talking about "the privileged" use terms like wealthy, connected and more. Admit that there are non-whites who get away with anything they want, Justice Thomas comes to mind, so would Herman Cain, just like rich white people (yes, probably not as much)

Only then will we stop dividing ourselves up and work together to make all the privileged elite not so special

11:49AM PDT on Aug 8, 2013

CRAP. Continued:


So with articles like this where it says "White privileges", poor white people who feel nobody speaks for them will not listen to how the whole system is rigged for the elites. Are there more white elites than non-whites? Hell yeah, but to the poorest white people they don't see it as their lives don't show them being privileged

That is why I want to change the tone from "whites" to just "privileged". We won't be further dividing poor and not so wealthy people who need to stand together by melanin content of their skin

Keep saying "Whites keeping their privileges" and try to get those white people who should be allies in the fight. It won't work

That is how this is dividing and not unifying

See I too am the first to graduate from college in my entire family. Yeah, I'm pretty much a stone's throw from the trailer park, where my dad and several family members still live. I'm the "rich one" in the family

Talking to them when a push to help minority students is exactly what I hear on this board, only turned around. They tell me "Who's watching out for us Frank?" All that has done is drive them deeper into Fox News where they get to hear things to make them feel better

With that said, the answer is "HELL YEAH!" breaking it down by race when it comes to elites vs the rest of us will divide. Which is what the elites want. When people at the bottom fight over scraps instead of going to where the real problem is, those at the top win

Now when

11:43AM PDT on Aug 8, 2013

@ Lisa L: Dance all you want. As for truth, you have half of it and a half truth is the greatest lie

As to "dividing you away from me" not a problem for me. I'd rather deal with the real world, not your ideas. If there is someone pulling away from reality, it is you.

Am I going to say that blacks were treated just as well as whites? Hell no. But you want, no need to be right and I find that is a huge road block to learning.

Where I coming from is that there are privileged and non-privileged. Are there different levels inside each group and are there overlapping conditions on the boundary of privileged/non-privileged? Yes

I'm trying to get poor white people who you still think are "privileged". Could they have a leg up on poor blacks probably but they can't see it. When they see things about getting minorities into colleges, they wonder "Who's helping me get my kids into college?" They don't see much else. All they know is that their kids can't afford college, aren't getting into college, etc.

Do I support getting more for ALL kids.

What I'm saying is that whites may have it easier, but at the bottom, the view is pretty much the same.

So with articles like this where it says "White privileges", poor white people who feel nobody speaks for them will not listen to how the whole system is rigged for the elites. Are there more white elites than non-whites? Hell yeah, but to the poorest white people they don't see it as their lives don't show them being privile

11:40AM PDT on Aug 8, 2013

@ Lisa L: Dance all you want. As for truth, you have half of it and a half truth is the greatest lie

As to "dividing you away from me" not a problem for me. I'd rather deal with the real world, not your ideas. If there is someone pulling away from reality, it is you.

Am I going to say that blacks were treated just as well as whites? Hell no. But you want, no need to be right and I find that is a huge road block to learning.

Where I coming from is that there are privileged and non-privileged. Are there different levels inside each group and are there overlapping conditions on the boundary of privileged/non-privileged? Yes

I'm trying to get poor white people who you still think are "privileged". Could they have a leg up on poor blacks probably but they can't see it. When they see things about getting minorities into colleges, they wonder "Who's helping me get my kids into college?" They don't see much else. All they know is that their kids can't afford college, aren't getting into college, etc.

Do I support getting more for ALL kids.

What I'm saying is that whites may have it easier, but at the bottom, the view is pretty much the same.

So with articles like this where it says "White privileges", poor white people who feel nobody speaks for them will not listen to how the whole system is rigged for the elites. Are there more white elites than non-whites? Hell yeah, but to the poorest white people they don't see it as their lives don't show them being privile

10:57AM PDT on Aug 8, 2013

Frank H.--if "choice of words" will "divide," then your choices are dividing you away from me--but I'll deal with it. What I won't do, however, is obey the advice to tippy-toe around being careful not to piss off anyone who can't handle it if someone tells them the truth. There's no wishing away white privilege by simply avoiding the mention of it; the same is true of male privilege or any other kind. In fact if this silencing technique you're suggesting had always been in place, I suppose it would still be legal to own slaves and women wouldn't even have the vote! You didn't ask for my advice anymore than I asked for yours, but since you offered me some anyway, here's some for you in return: look into the reasons why there are so many objections to white privilege and male privilege. Much really insightful writing on those subjects exists that might just open your eyes. It's all well and good to draw on our personal experiences and feel sorry for ourselves, but there are millions of people out there and they have their own stories to tell. If we hope to attain anything like justice, shutting some of them down because they piss off some other people is not the way to get there.

6:47AM PDT on Aug 8, 2013

I completely agree Kevin. My dad only went to 8th grade - got his GED when I was in Middle School. While others were scoffing at this accomplishment - I was very proud.
Well said Lisa!
You as well Cathleen.

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