50-state report card shows many public colleges and universities under-serving Black students

How well are public colleges and universities in each state serving their Black students? A new report co-authored by Shaun Harper, the executive director of the University of Southern California’s Race and Equity Center, indicates that many colleges—a number of them in states with the highest proportion of Black 18- to 24-year-olds—are “failing black students.”

The report examines postsecondary access and student success for the more than 900,000 Black undergraduates enrolled at four-year, non-specialized, public postsecondary institutions in the U.S. The report card used U.S. Census population statistics and quantitative data from the U.S. Department of Education to grade schools and states on the following factors:

  • Representation equity: “Extent to which Black students’ share of enrollment in the undergraduate student population reflects their representation among 18-24 year-old citizens in that state.”
  • Gender equity: “Extent to which the proportionality of Black women’s and Black men’s respective shares of Black student enrollments in the undergraduate student population reflects the national gender enrollment distribution across all racial/ethnic groups (56.3 percent women, 43.7 percent men).”
  • Completion equity: “Extent to which Black students’ six-year graduation rates, across four cohorts, matches overall six-year graduation rates during those same time periods at each institution.”
  • Ratio of Black students to Black faculty: “Ratio of full-time, degree-seeking Black undergraduates to full-time Black instructional faculty members on each campus.”

The report authors then used those grades to calculate an Equity Index Score—akin to a grade point average—for each school and an average score for each state. They found that southern states like Mississippi and Louisiana, where more than one-third of residents are Black, had among the worst scores. Institutions on the West Coast, which have smaller Black populations, fared better, as reported by The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The number of institutions and states with relatively low scores “makes painstakingly clear that the failure is systemic. That it’s not just a handful of institutions,” Harper told Inside Higher Ed. The report calls on Black students and their families, higher education leaders, policymakers, and other stakeholders to use the data and findings “to demand corrective policies and institutional actions” that improve college enrollment, success, and completion rates for Black students.

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