African American Racial Representation in Schools

By: Shay Rosen

Colleges and universities within the southern states are now, for the first time ever, showing representation figures that coincide with African American population densities, according to a study by the Southern Regional Education Board. This is above average for the rest of the country, placing what many in other regions typically believe to be a racially oppressed area firmly ahead on matters of educational equality as they pertain to African American students.

The increases have been seen in public universities and associate level colleges rather than at historically African American colleges, for which enrollment has declined over the last decade. This offers an indicator of the mainstreaming of attitudes across minorities toward the educational system as a whole.

The board notes that there are still many hurdles to overcome and problems on the horizon both nationally and in the South. Graduation rates for African Americans are still lower than the national average. The study did not calculate graduation rates for the Southern states region, but an analysis commissioned by The Associated Press calculated the graduation rates for the 16 states in the board's report.

Erroll Davis, Chancellor of the University System of Georgia, notes that most minority students enroll with lower levels of college preparedness, though, "We've removed a lot of the barriers and accepted that we will have to provide higher levels of learning support in the short-term,"

While progress is being made in terms of overall enrollment, more initiatives are needed at the elementary and high school levels to ensure that minority students have the educational foundation necessary to succeed at the collegiate level. Active enrollment is a positive step but until graduation rates are on par with non-minority students, the post college playing field is unequal.

Within the minority groups represented in the study, graduation rates from the Associated Press data vary substantially. Hispanics are now the most underrepresented group in colleges and universities across the South, yet have higher graduation rates than African American students. Six-year graduation rates were 40 percent for African Americans, 46 percent for Hispanics, and 56 percent for whites compared to 41 percent, 44 percent and 60 percent respectively nationwide.

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