LatinaLista — Getting a college education, for many Latino and African American students and their families, has long been presumed to be the great 'equalizer' when it comes to righting the wrongs of disparities that exist in public education and the white collar workforce.
But a new report from Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce highlights an issue that has been the proverbial elephant in the room for too many years — students of color are dreaming if they think colleges are havens of fair play and opportunity.
Separate & Unequal: How Higher Education Reinforces the Intergenerational Reproduction of White Racial Privilege shatters the illusion that higher education is any different from elementary or high school when it comes to which students get all the breaks.
According to the report, "The postsecondary system mimics and magnifies the racial and ethnic inequality in educational preparation it inherits from the K-12 system and then projects this inequality into the labor market."
The report's authors found that students of color are being funneled into underfunded institutions while white students are concentrated in more elite and selective universities. Even those white students who share in the same lack of preparedness for college as Latinos and African Americans are still presented with more opportunities than their peers of color.
The postsecondary system does not treat similarly qualified white and African-American or Hispanic students equally and thereby blunts individual opportunity and wastes valuable talent.
Many African Americans and Hispanics are unprepared for college, but whites who are equally unprepared still get more postsecondary opportunities.
Moreover, African- American and Hispanic students who are prepared for college are disproportionately tracked into crowded and underfunded two-year colleges and open-access four-year colleges. The postsecondary system leaves a substantial number of qualified minorities on educational pathways that don’t allow them to fulfill their educational and career potential.
The report goes on to detail the extent of the inequality of higher education between white and students of color and illustrates that turning around such a systemic practice will be difficult.
But, like all things that need to be changed, there needs to be awareness of its existence. Only when there's awareness can profound change begin to happen — as long as there's a will to do it.