Report: College achievement gap persists between African American, white students

December 6, 2013

Despite gains in college-going and completion rates among African-American students over the past decade, a persistent achievement gap remains and blacks remain underrepresented in the state’s public universities, according to a new report by the Campaign for College Opportunity.

More African-American students are earning bachelor’s or higher degrees than they were 10 years ago, the report found, but that growth did not make a significant difference in closing the achievement gap, which has narrowed by only about 1 percentage point since 2000. In 2000, 18 percent of African-Americans in California held bachelor’s degrees or higher, compared with 36.7 percent of whites – and 18.7-point gap. In 2011, 23.7 percent of blacks held bachelor’s degrees compared with 41.4 percent of whites – a 17.7-point gap.

In addition, the report said, African-Americans students are the most likely our of any racial group to attend college but not attain a degree. For the first time, according to the report, African American freshmen and transfer students have the lowest completion rates at all three higher education systems in California – University of California, California State University and the California Community Colleges.

“In 2012, more black students in California were enrolled in private, for-profit colleges than in the CSU and UC combined,” said the report. African-American enrollment at UC and CSU has remained flat over the past decade, underscoring the impact of the ban of affirmative action programs in university admissions, the report said.

The State of Blacks in Higher Education: The Persistent Opportunity Gap is the second in a series of research reports by the Campaign.

“The report reveals a troubling pattern,” said Michele Siqueiros, executive director of the Campaign for College Opportunity, in a news release. “But with the right policies and funding levels, we could see black achievement respond positively.”

The report recommends:

“The persistent disparities between black students and their counterparts should sound an alarm for Californians and our elected leaders to make a concerted effort to systematically narrow and close these gaps,” the report states. “To do otherwise is to accept a society of ‘haves and have nots,’ and questions our state’s commitment to diversity, inclusion, and equity.”

For more information on this issue, see EdSource’s May 2008 report, Raising African American Achievement: California Goals, Local Outcomes, and  “Schools with Notable African American Achievement.” The latter includes interviews with principals at schools where African American students were performing well.

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