Analysis, Commentary

New Report: Gaps in College Spending Shortchange Students of Color

Racial inequality in colleges
Students sit in a college classroom in Brookline, Massachusetts, March 2018. (Source: Center for American Progress)

Washington, D.C. —(ENEWSPF)—April 5, 2018

By: Sara Garcia

Black and Latinx students are more likely to attend public institutions of higher education that spend less to educate them, according to a new analysis released today from the Center for American Progress.

If these spending gaps were erased, $5 billion more would be spent annually to educate black and Latinx students. On average, the amount spent to educate a white student at a public college is $1,000 more than what is spent on students of color.

“That racial inequities exist in American education is no major discovery, but this is further proof that such challenges persist from kindergarten all the way through college,” said Sara Garcia, policy analyst for Postsecondary Education at CAP and author of the issue brief. “Higher education has historically served as a vehicle for economic mobility, but people of color are too often turned away from this pipeline. Closing gaps in educational spending and increasing investments in public colleges that typically have fewer financial resources are great ways to ensure a more equitable system of higher education.”

The brief found that racial spending gaps are a function of two key factors: First, most states fund their public colleges in a way that directs more money to elite research institutions over less selective four-year and community colleges. Second, students of color are disproportionately more likely to attend those very same colleges that receive fewer resources to prepare students for success, leading to less being spent on them.

To correct the gaps in access and funding, the brief recommends that states reconsider their funding formulas to provide more money for schools that enroll students who are traditionally underrepresented—such as students of color and those who are low-income. It also suggests that the federal government invest more in colleges that typically have fewer resources to spend on education, including public two-year institutions, historically black colleges and universities, minority-serving institutions, and other non-flagship public colleges.

Similarly, the brief calls on states, institutions, and policymakers to work together to ensure that the current system of admissions doesn’t sort students into institutions based on factors beyond their control, such as participation in certain courses or after-school activities that may not be offered at under-resourced K-12 schools.

To read the issue brief, click here.


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