Will Colleges Ride the Growing Wave of Diversity?
Over the next 10 years, students of color are projected to make up 45 percent of public high school graduates, up from 38 percent in 2009. According to the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education's 8th edition of Knocking at the College Door, 10 states will have “minority-majority” public high school graduating classes by 2020, as students of color in the general population increase nationally.
While the recent report laid the context for specific racial groups overall and geographically, implications for colleges and universities aren't as clear. Certainly public high schools will need to re-examine their curriculum, pedagogy and other student services to ensure students of color are being served in appropriate ways. However, it remains a question as to whether more students of color “than ever before will pass through the gates of the nation's colleges" as the Chronicle of Higher Education claimed.While public high school demographics may shift, colleges and universities will not necessarily go along with the wave of growing diversity for a number of reasons.
What the report doesn't include is data on family income and socioeconomic background. Higher education costs are rising significantly on a national scale and as a result, access is restricted as the trend outpaces federal financial aid. The students of color who will attend college will be those who can afford to pay for it, or the neediest with access to federal aid — leaving those in the socioeconomic-middle stranded.
The growing number of high-paying international students admitted to many colleges and universities as more and more institutions recruit abroad is another factor to consider when defining "diversity" on college campuses.While U.S. students will benefit from exposure to different cultures as preparation to navigate a global society, international student diversity may inadvertently subvert goals to increase access to domestic students of color on college campuses. Then there's the U.S. supreme court's pending ruling on Fisher v. Texas, a case that will determine if colleges will continue to have the right to consider race in the admissions process. If struck down, colleges will no longer reserve the right to consider race in the admissions processes.
Historically, communities of color have had to stake their own claim and create culturally relevant places of learning, such as historically black colleges and universities as well as many tribal colleges and universities yet these institutions, as the commission's report noted, were created intentionally for a different era and political reality: “we need to address the fact that systems, policies and practices designed for an earlier, more racially/ethnically homogeneous era will not suffice."
Jude Paul Matias Dizon is a reporter for Campus Progress.