Achievement Gap Persists for Black College Students in California

A new report finds that black students continue to face obstacles when trying to graduate from institutes of higher learning in California. 

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Students and faculty members at California State University, Northridge, demonstrating against proposed budget cuts.

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Black students in California still must overcome a persistent opportunity gap to obtain a degree from an institute of higher learning, a new study has found.

According to a report (pdf) released by the Californian advocacy group Campaign for College Opportunity, black educational attainment has improved somewhat since 2000 in terms of earning bachelor’s degrees or higher, but the achievement gap between blacks and whites has only decreased by 1 percentage point during that time. Only about 24 percent of black students earned their bachelor’s degrees, in comparison to 41 percent of their white counterparts.

The study also shows that black students are more likely to go to college without completing their studies and earning a degree. As of last year, there were more black students enrolling in private, for-profit colleges, in comparison to University of California and California State University combined—meaning that they were more likely to acquire debt.

The report points to black students being disproportionately affected by California’s ban on affirmative action as well as budget cuts to blame for the decline in black enrollment at community and state colleges.

According to Campaign for College Opportunity’s Executive Director Michele Siqueiros, these disparities all stem from an unwillingness to deal with racial inequalities, the Los Angeles Times reported.

"I’ve come to be more convinced of an inability to really address these issues more openly in a way that forces state policy makers to come up with ideas and colleges to find solutions," Siqueiros told the news site. "Especially after the ban on affirmative action, we don’t feel comfortable talking about race and nothing really happens."

"While we have a real challenge on our hands in making sure black and other students achieve success, the reality is that these students need more services in order to be successful," Jamillah Moore, the chancellor of the Ventura County Community College District and former president of Los Angeles City College, added. "We need to follow up and identity where the best practices are and what is working."

Another disturbing piece of data from the study shows blacks aged 25 to 34 are less educated than those aged 35 to 64.

"It means that we have failed an entire generation of African-American students, and we need to ask ourselves what caused this discrepancy and ensure that we are not making the same mistakes with the next generation," state Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), chairwoman of the California Legislative Black Caucus, said, according to the Times.

However, it isn’t all bad news. More black students have earned their bachelor’s degrees in the past decade. In 2011, 24 percent of black students had earned their bachelor’s or higher, compared to only 18 percent in 2000.

Read more at the Los Angeles Times.

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