08/07/2013 02:22 pm ET Updated Aug 07, 2013

Latino And Low-Income Students Underrepresented At Top Colleges


Realtors aren’t the only ones to understand the value of location, location, location. This also applies to Latino and low-income students that hope to attend elite colleges.

A recent study published by Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce highlights the importance of where Hispanic high school graduates go to college and how it determines not only if they’ll graduate but also their future prospects.

The report reveals Latino students are underrepresented at America’s 465 select four-year colleges, while they are overrepresented at open-access, two-year colleges. This is also true for low-income students in general.

Researchers Anthony Carnevale and Jeff Strohl examined roughly 4,400 institutions over a 15-year stretch. Their findings are a stark reminder of how far Latino and low-income students have to go to obtain equality in the higher-education system.

Missed opportunities for low-income students

Carnevale and Strohl’s study showed more than 240,000 high-achieving, low-income high school students didn’t attend elite colleges or earn degrees (associate or bachelor), with a quarter of them being minorities.

The researchers stressed the potential for Latinos attending college may have increased but the majority of them end up at community colleges anyway, where open-access allowing all students to enroll often leads to closed doors or dead-ends.

Carnevale said, “The more access you get, the more inequality you get.”

Familiar factors lead to current results

The main socio-economic issue dates back decades to what is referred to as “White Flight,” where non-Hispanic whites left the inner city and created suburbs with better schools. This is a precursor to low-income students being shut out of elite colleges.

“It’s not surprising that once they moved to the better schools, 30 years later we have the same profile in colleges,” Carnevale said. “So that wave has simply moved beyond suburbs and into college. You get this phenomenon now where the white population is declining, but the white representation in elite schools is increasing. So the selective colleges have become white privilege.”

Why location matters

The old college adage is you get out of it what you put into it. The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce study suggests such talk is a pipedream.

The reason is the biggest difference between low-income students attending a two-year school and an elite college is campus resources. The report revealed top-notch colleges spend two to five times as much on students than open-access schools. Naturally, this translates into increased graduation rates, with high-scoring non-Hispanic whites graduating at a 70 percent clip compared to the same Latino students at 49 percent.

Another area where this comes into play is with career earnings, where Carnevale said students who graduate from elite colleges will earn $2 million more over their lifetime.

Getting into a four-year university over a community college increases chances of graduation but part of that success revolves around campus support. Carnevale said low-income students at elite schools may feel overwhelmed but there’s a system in place to help guide those in need towards graduation.

“One of the secrets of the elite schools is that you’ll graduate cum laude,” Carnevale said. “If you pay that much money, you better get a plaque. The elite schools don’t let you drop out.”

Originally published on VOXXI as Minority, low-income students underrepresented at elite colleges



States With The Most Student Debt - Ranked By Average Student Debt, As Of 2011, From The Project On Student Debt