The Role of Race and Ethnicity in Education Attainment

The Role of Race and Ethnicity in Education Attainment

The Role of Race and Ethnicity in Education Attainment – A look at the recently released Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education: A Status Report

Last week The American Council on Education, in collaboration with the Research Triangle Institute International, released Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education: A Status Report. Through 200 indicators from 11 principal data sources, this ambitious report confirms that while the number of students of color enrolled in higher education continues to increase, gaps in access, persistence, and graduation still persist.  The full report and all related analyses may be found here.

Per the Report’s authors, “the current and future health of our nation – economic and otherwise – requires that the whole of our population have equitable access to sources of opportunity.  Chief among such sources of opportunity is higher education.”

There are literally thousands of takeaways possible from this report. As the Hispanic population is the fastest growing nationally, as well as in Montgomery County, it’s good news that undergraduate enrollment by Hispanics has grown by 92% in the last ten years, and each 10-year age cohort had higher rates of degree attainment than the next oldest group. Still, post-secondary degree attainment for Hispanics is still the lowest of any ethnic or racial group.

And unfortunately, the news for African Americans is not favorable as they show “some of the lowest persistence rates, highest undergraduate dropout rates, highest borrowing rates, and largest debt burdens of any group.” Additionally, Black students had the widest gender gap of any group as 62.2 percent of Black undergraduates and 70.2 percent of Black graduate students were women.

Educational Attainment by Race and EthnicityAs economic opportunity is one of the goals of higher education, the Report does confirm the significant, tangible financial returns seen with degree attainment across racial and ethnic groups. In fact, the median annual earnings for someone with a Bachelor’s Degree is nearly 80 percent higher than someone with a High School degree, or equivalent.