A new report reveals major disparities between the rate of black high school graduates and the rate of black students enrolled at flagship state institutions. Among the findings: Nine of the 10 states with the biggest gaps were found in the South.
The Hechinger Report released an interactive look Monday at how many black and Latinx high school graduates make it to their state’s main college or university. Why focus on the state’s flagship public institution as opposed to, say, a better-known or more competitive private school? As the Baltimore Sun points out, schools like the University of Maryland, College Park, and the University of Mississippi, because they’re taxpayer-funded, typically emphasize service to in-state students. They’re considered “beacons of attainable, affordable education,” the Sun writes, but on top of that, students who graduate from flagship universities tend to make more than their peers who went to other state-funded schools.
A large gap between the percentage of black high school grads a state produces and the percentage enrolled at a flagship campus, then, can point to a troubling gap in who a state’s high school graduates are, and who gets the best educational opportunities from college onward.
The University of Mississippi, the University of South Carolina, the University of Georgia, Louisiana State University and the University of Delaware have the worst gaps in the country, with Ole Miss leading the way. In 2015, half of Mississippi’s graduates were black, yet Ole Miss’ total black student enrollment that year was just 10 percent.
The study also looked at Latinx students. A regional pattern emerged in these findings, too—though not as stark as the corresponding study covering black students. States in the Southwest and West made up a majority of the top 10, with California, Texas, Nevada, Colorado and Arizona having the largest gaps. In California, Latinx students received more than half of all high school diplomas in 2015, but Latinx students made up less than 15 percent of the student body at the state’s flagship campus, the University of California, Berkeley.
The Baltimore Sun, writing about the University of Maryland, which had the sixth-worst gap for black students, covers a few reasons why the lag exists there.
The article notes that UMD College Park is surrounded by HBCUs, including Howard University in Washington, D.C., which offer strong competition in recruiting black students. Racist incidents on the College Park campus may have also deterred black students looking for a more welcoming, inclusive and safe environment. Just last year, a black Bowie State University student was killed, allegedly by a white Maryland student in a crime prosecutors say was race-motivated.
Going to a school where 10 percent or less of the student body looks like you can be an isolating experience. The recent uptick in hate incidents on majority-white college campuses means that isolation can also be dangerous.
Disparities in the quality of high schools that serve majority-black communities were also pointed out as a possible contributing factor. One current Maryland sophomore, Amari Harris, told the paper that it was hard to compete with schools that offered more resources and extracurriculars, like robotics clubs or debate teams.