College-Going Rate for Blacks, Hispanics Down Sharply From 1976, Report Says

By Mark Walsh — January 24, 1990 3 min read

The college-participation rate for low- and middle-income blacks and Hispanics dropped significantly from 1976 to 1988, according to a new report from the American Council on Education.

Between 1976 and 1988, the college-participation rate for whites ages 18 to 24 who were dependent on their families increased 3.6 percentage points, the ace’s annual report on minority education found. During the same period, the participation rate for blacks fell 12.0 percentage points and for Hispanics, 8.1 points.

“Since the mid-1970’s,” the report’s authors, Deborah J. Carter and Reginald Wilson of the ace, write, “the college participation of African Americans and Hispanics has been a picture not of progress but of major regression.”

For low- and middle-income blacks and Hispanics, the report states, the declines were even more pronounced.

The participation rate for low-income blacks dropped from 40 percent in 1976 to 30 percent in 1988, according to the study. The percentage of low-income Hispanics enrolled in college fell from 50 percent in 1976 to 35 percent in 1988.

Among middle-income blacks, the college-going rate plummeted from 53 percent in 1976 to 36 percent in 1988; meanwhile, the rate for mid4dle-income Hispanics fell from 53 percent to 46 percent.

The report indicates some progress in recent years for Hispanics ages 18 to 24, whose college-participation rate increased from 29.4 percent in 1986 to 30.9 percent in 1988.

Among young white adults, the rate increased from 34 percent in 1986 to 38 percent in 1988.

But the picture is not encouraging for black students. Among young black males, 27.8 percent were enrolled in college in 1986. The figure jumped to 31.7 percent in 1987, but then fell to 25 percent in 1988.

The proportion of young black women enrolled in college increased slightly from 29.3 percent in 1986 to 30.5 percent in 1988.

The report, which also examines high-school completion rates and the numbers of college degrees conferred, cites several possible factors for the long-term decline in college participation among blacks and Hispanics.

State efforts to strengthen educational requirements may be one reason, the report’s authors suggest. Because minority-group members tend to graduate with lower grade-point averages and with lower scores on standardized tests, the report states, the higher standards are having a “disproportionately negative impact” on minority graduates.

The report also cites studies indicating that student-aid programs8can increase the number of low-income students attending college.

“Without question,” the report says, “changes in the structure of current student-aid programs could have a revitalizing effect on the college-entrance rates” of minority students.

Competition From Military

The report also suggests that the military is becoming more competitive with colleges at recruiting “high-ability, college-eligible” blacks.

A recent report by the Congressional Budget Office found that, although the military recruited proportionately fewer blacks in 1987 than in 1980, it attracted larger percentages of high-ability, middle- and upper-income blacks, the ace study notes.

An ace report last year concluded that the military was meeting its personnel needs without affecting college enrollment, but noted that both colleges and the armed forces have drawn a declining share of recent black male high-school graduates.

The new report also found that:

  • Many minority students who do attend college never receive a degree.

Blacks represented 9.2 percent of the undergraduate population in 1986, but earned only 5.7 percent of the bachelor’s degrees awarded in 1987. Hispanics represented 5.3 percent of the undergraduate enrollment in 1987, but earned only 2.7 percent of all four-year degrees.

  • Between 1985 and 1987, blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians showed large declines in the number of bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education received.

Copies of the report, “Eighth Annual Status Report on Minorities in Higher Education,” are available for $10 each prepaid from the Office of Minority Concerns, American Council on Education, One Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C. 20036.

A version of this article appeared in the January 24, 1990 edition of Education Week as College-Going Rate for Blacks, Hispanics Down Sharply From 1976, Report Says