ACE Report Highlights Disparities in Higher Education

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The American Council on Education (ACE) has released the “Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education: 2024 Status Report,” offering a detailed analysis of various educational indicators. This comprehensive report examines crucial topics such as graduate and professional education, student loan debt and repayment, and the racial and ethnic composition of postsecondary faculty and staff. It sheds light on how these factors differ across racial and ethnic groups, providing a nuanced understanding of educational pathways.

The report reveals that White and Asian students are more likely to enroll in college, attend four-year institutions, and graduate with degrees that lead to better labor market opportunities with higher earnings potential. 

In contrast, Black or Latino students, the two largest groups frequently categorized together as ‘underrepresented’ in higher education, exhibit patterns of enrollment, attainment, and education financing that are distinct from one another. These differences underscore the importance of not homogenizing underrepresented groups when analyzing educational outcomes.

Another significant finding of the report is the impact of institutional type on student outcomes. Black, women, and older students are more concentrated in the for-profit sector, whereas Asian and international students are predominantly found in institutions with high research activity. This stratification highlights the varied educational opportunities available to students from different backgrounds.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling on race in college admissions has intensified the focus on achieving diversity in higher education. The ACE report aims to provide a well-organized overview of the current state of race and ethnicity in higher education, serving as a resource for policymakers, institutional leaders, researchers, media, and the public.

ACE examined more than 200 indicators to explore educational access and outcomes across different racial and ethnic groups. The resulting information offers insights into enrollment, completion, and financing by institution type and sector, with a particular emphasis on separating data by demographic characteristics. For the first time since ACE began preparing this type of research, the report also includes information on graduate enrollment trends by Carnegie Classification, providing a more nuanced view of graduate school completion.

Key findings include significant disparities in postsecondary completions among racial and ethnic groups, with bachelor’s degrees being more common among Asian, White, and multiracial students, while Black, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, Latino, and American Indian or Alaska Native students were more likely to earn sub-baccalaureate certificates and degrees. Additionally, Black students attend for-profit institutions at higher rates than other groups, and are more likely to incur significant educational debt during their enrollment.

While the report’s findings indicate some areas in which diversity and representation is improving, it makes clear that there remain substantial disparities in access and equity between racial and ethnic groups who pursue higher education. This data emphasizes the need to address these disparities, increase equity, and ensure strong outcomes for all groups.