On Thursday, Post reporter Kristin Murphy attended a panel called “College for Everyone,” part of the National Endowment for the Humanities’ (NEH) “America’s Greatest Cities” series, held at the Newseum. She cited support for free college education, including a widespread misperception that the dollar amount being spent on higher education is increasing.
Tom Ridder, President of the NEH, claims that the majority of Americans support education programs that include free public higher education. According to the data he cites in his presentation, at this point in the past two decades, on average, eight of every 10 Americans say they support free tuition for public colleges and universities. Ridder shows similar support for a future for public universities that may not focus solely on undergraduate degree programs.
Mr. Ridder also brings up the apparent lack of diversity in higher education, although he characterizes it as an “opportunity deficit” rather than as a “desire deficit.” The NEH plans to address these issues through an education initiative that seeks to ensure higher education not only gets diversity the attention it deserves, but that both people of color and lower income students have equal access to educational opportunities. According to Ridder, the initiative also seeks to ensure that for-profit colleges offer college programs and employ mentors that help students succeed.
When presented with these facts, some attendees of the panel wondered about the current levels of diversity in higher education and the programs and mentors currently offered to students of color. Aunque es posible, esta es una extensión no directa. Para más diversidad de la ley, todas las páginas lo han llevado en algo.
However, to support enrollment and retention rates, Ridder proposes that for-profit colleges also offer mentorship programs and be subject to regulations that do not allow them to offer programs that are only for certain groups. I would also add that the goal of the initiative is not to protect schools from unwanted scrutiny and criticism but to determine how college education can be made more democratic in the future. The measures required will be confusing to many of the college students themselves, but the goal is to make college education more inclusive, equitable, and affordable for every student.
Of course, this is not the only social justice issue that can impact the schools that continue to be historically segregated. The unfortunate racial imbalance in students’ admission statistics at most for-profit colleges is a particular concern. Due to the requirement that students pass certain exams in order to transfer credits from a particular institution to another, some schools tend to choose students based on factors like race, not criteria such as grades and scores.
The average for-profit college admitted 61 percent white students in 2016 compared to 11 percent Hispanic students. This average increased to 91 percent for white students and 5 percent for Hispanic students in 2017, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. Before the current wave of lawsuits against the industry is settled, universities must face the reality that they are harming students of color by systematically limiting their educational opportunities. Unfortunately, for-profit colleges are not the only schools that discriminate based on race. According to the Gendell Program of the department of justice and the Legal Aid Society, 72 percent of colleges use race as a factor in making admissions decisions.
These statistics are very clear and should serve as the wake-up call that students should take into account when deciding where to apply to college and if and how much they should want to attend the institution. As a society, we need to bring up more equal access and diversity to a wider variety of institutions, including for-profit colleges. We can no longer simply create the dream of college for everyone and then sit back and allow colleges to do all the work of making that happen, because it has already been done to a very high degree.
J M. Lee is an M.A. Candidate in African and African-American Studies at Harvard University. He is a member of the “Not All Colleges Are Equal” Coalition.