Disparities in Higher Learning
Policies, practices, and beliefs—rooted in history and yet still affecting people—keep many Black, Latino, Hispanic, and Native American people from receiving the education they need. These systems unfairly hold back students who are seeking a better life. Racial disparities are widening, and inequity will continue to grow without concerted efforts.
Deliberate policies created or contributed to unfair and unjust conditions in American higher education, and it will take focused effort to remove barriers and help Black and brown people realize real opportunity.
These students often attend poorly resourced public schools beset by segregation and financing policies that disproportionately advantage wealthier, mostly white families. These disadvantaged students often do not have access to the same level of college counseling and other services as peers from wealthier homes. This lack of college preparation contributes to stark disparities in college enrollment and graduation rates. On campus, they often do not encounter professors, counselors, and administrators who look like them. Or they don’t receive enough income-based financial aid. Or they face discrimination inside and outside the classroom. Such obstacles can make students feel unwelcome or even lead to a hostile learning environmentn
In response to recent court challenges, colleges and universities must focus on increased recruitment and retention of Black and brown students. This includes making the admissions process fairer, addressing departmental, institutional, and systemwide policies that disproportionately advantage white students. Colleges must take bold steps to ensure that their campuses are racially, ethnically, and culturally diverse. This includes revising hiring and selection practices to ensure that they have a faculty and staff that reflects the diversity of the surrounding community. Colleges also should provide mentoring programs, childcare, counseling services, and financial aid.
Even amid serious skepticism, education and training after high school remain among the most secure pathways to economic stability. Even so, the country today needs a learning system that works well for everyone.
At Lumina Foundation, we work with partners across the country to ensure that colleges, universities, and other education providers make opportunity real for students of color, students who are the first in their families to go to college, students from low-income families, and working-age adults.
We believe change starts with explicitly addressing the role that race and racism play in perpetuating unjust educational outcomes. With every passing day, we realize we can—and must—do more to lift our voices and elevate our actions on behalf of people who have long been prevented from realizing their true potential.