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Report: CA Public Colleges Shortchanging Black, Latino Students

Black students make up 6 percent of college-age students in California, but only 3 percent at selective public colleges. (ACTaylorJr/Pixabay)
Black students make up 6 percent of college-age students in California, but only 3 percent at selective public colleges. (ACTaylorJr/Pixabay)
November 13, 2018

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California's most selective public colleges still admit far too few black and Latino students, according to a new report out today.

Researchers at the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce found that six out of 100 college-age students in California are black, but only three of 100 students are black at schools such as Cal Poly, San Diego State and a handful of University of California campuses, including UCLA, UC Berkeley, Davis, Irvine, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz.

Those numbers did not improve at all from 2005 to 2015. Martin Van Der Werf, a study co-author, said, in part, he blames inequality in funding for K-12 schools.

"It becomes sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy over time,” Van Der Werf said. “We give more resources to the wealthier districts, the wealthier districts produce students who do better on the tests, those students go on to selective colleges, and things just don't tend to change over time."

However, Latino representation has improved - going from 14 percent of freshmen at selective public colleges in 2005 up to 25 percent ten years later. The report found that 85 percent of students at selective institutions graduate - and it found that those schools spend five times as much money on instruction and academic support compared with open-admission public colleges - the biggest gap in any state.

Van Der Werf said the schools should take more than just the SATs into account when making admissions decisions, adding that test scores inherently favor whites.

"Whites do better on standardized tests,” Van Der Werf said. “Latinos do second best and blacks, of the three groups, they do the worst. And so when you rely on testing as an entry measure, whites are always going to do better."

The study also found that state funding is very unequal. California's selective public colleges received $8,800 per student in 2015, whereas open-access public colleges received $2,400 less.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CA