Today (May 28, 2015), the Campaign for College Opportunity released “The State ofHigher Education in California—Black Report.” The Campaign is a broad-based bipartisan coalition of business, education and civil rights leaders dedicated to ensuring all Californians have an equal opportunity to attend and succeed in college.
For Blacks, access to higher education is critically important and to help generate public awareness about the issue and the report, its Introduction and Recommendations follow.
California is home to the fifth largest Black population in the United States. Roughly three-fourths of Black Californians live in 6 counties (Alameda, Los Angeles, Riverside, Sacramento, San Bernardino and San Diego) with more than one-third residing in Los Angeles County alone. This report finds that Black Californians have improved their educational outcomes over the last couple of decades. Black adults today are more likely to have a high school diploma and a college degree than in 1990. Black students are also more likely to graduate from high school and college today than they were ten years ago.
However, compared to the major four racial/ethnic groups in California, Blacks still experience significant opportunity gaps. For example, 23-percent of working-age Black adults in California have a Bachelor’s Degree or higher compared to 42-percent of white adults. Black adults are more likely to have attended some college but left without earning a degree. Black youth overwhelmingly attend lower-performing elementary through high schools characterized by lower than average test scores, inexperienced teachers, lower levels of resources and funding, and insufficient counselors.
As a result, Black high school students are less likely than students from most other racial/ethnic groups to graduate from high school having completed the sequence of A-G coursework that makes them eligible to apply to California’s public 4-year universities. When they do arrive in college, Black students are most likely to be placed into pre-college level coursework, the least likely to graduate from college and the most likely to enroll in for-profit colleges, which have traditionally poor rates of student success and, in some cases, high costs and student debt levels.
The number of Black students enrolling in college was steadily increasing up until the Great Recession when deep state funding cuts to public higher education budgets were enacted. Unfortunately, these cuts seem to have had a disproportionate negative impact on Black students for whom college enrollment rates declined sharply after 2007, especially at the California State University (CSU) system—both in freshman and transfer enrollment. Even before these budget cuts, Black students were substantially underrepresented at the University of California (UC) system, a fact that still persists.
The data reveals troubling gaps and disparities in student success by race/ethnicity, often driven by funding, policy, and institutional weaknesses—and not simply the dedication of individual students. These include inadequate preparation from high school, a broken remedial education system in college and the consequences of significant funding cuts to our public colleges and universities—institutions that play a significant role in college degree attainment for the majority of Black students in California.
As a state, we have fallen short on our promise of offering all students equal access to and opportunity for advancement through education. A concerted, strategic effort among California’s policymakers, institutional leaders and community-based organizations will be critical to the process of reversing these negative trends and continuing the progress that has already been made.
Black adults between 25 and 60 years in California are less likely to have a college degree than whites of the same age group. While more than 90 percent of Black adults have a high school diploma, only 23 percent have a Bachelor’s Degree or higher, compared to 42 percent of white adults. One-third of Black adults have some college experience but no degree—the highest rate of attendance without a degree among major racial/ethnic groups. This finding suggests that many Black students want a degree and enroll in college, but do not make it to graduation day—an opportunity ripe for addressing.
Closing gaps in access and success across racial/ethnic groups is critical for California. As a majority-minority state, the success of all racial/ethnic groups is essential for a strong economy and vibrant, civil society.
The Campaign for College Opportunity proposes the following recommendations for policymakers, college leaders, students and families so that we can secure California’s economic future by significantly improving our education system for all Californians and specifically increasing college enrollment and graduation among Black students. Our success in doing so not only strengthens the opportunity and future of Black Californians, but that of our state and especially impacts key regions where many Blacks live.
1) Create a statewide plan for higher education.
2) Ensure colleges successfully move students through pre-college level courses quickly and with improved retention rates.
3) Provide clear transfer pathways to four-year degrees
4) Identify and re-enroll adults with some college but no certificate or degree.
5) Expand college knowledge in middle and high school and invest in support services that students need in order to succeed.
6) Fund colleges for both enrollment growth and successful outcomes.
7) Strengthen financial support options for low- to moderate-income college students.
8) Allow California’s public universities to use race/ethnicity as one of many factors in weighing an applicant’s qualifications for admission.
For more information or a copy of the full report, email: [email protected]