Since 1991, minority enrollment in higher education has risen among all races and ethnicities. President Barack Obama’s support for minority-serving institutions, or MSIs, has been steady despite increasing costs. However, backing from the government needs to further extend to community colleges to better serve minority students.
Approximately 45 percent of minority students attend two-year community colleges, which are more affordable but less cost-efficient than four-year colleges. On average, MSI community colleges spent $500 less per student on instruction, academic support and student services than four-year MSI universities in 2013, which spent $912 more than the average university, according to an April 10 Center for American Progress report.
The report showed grants and monetary aid programs are more effective when they target a specific funding goal, and with that in mind, the federal government should reevaluate its funding initiatives to ensure that MSI students have the same access to professors, educational materials and services as four-year students.
MSIs have historically been a place for disadvantaged students to safely pursue higher education, but some institutions have faced difficulty operating in recent years. Black colleges were originally established to offer black students an education in spite of segregation, but now some are failing for a variety of reasons.
In the case of Howard University, a historically black college in Washington D.C., the financial threat comes from mismanagement and limited access to federal appropriations, according to a letter from one of the university’s trustees that was published June 10 in the Washington Post. Mary Holmes College in Mississippi closed in 2005 and Morris Brown College in Atlanta filed for bankruptcy.
Undoubtedly, greater diversity at public and private universities plus greater access to financial aid, is drawing student away from these schools. However, there is still a need for these colleges for a multitude of reasons.
Some colleges still consider race in the admissions process, which could lead to application rejections, as shown in the June 2013 Supreme Court decision on Fisher v. the University of Texas at Austin. Historically black universities foster leadership and entrepreneurship because students do not have to fear discrimination or explain racial differences to their classmates, allowing them to focus on their studies and prepare for a more successful career. Because of the important contributions they make, they should not be allowed to fail based on financial mismanagement or weak alumni donations.
Forty-five percent of minority students attend community colleges, whereas only 25 percent of white students do, according to the Census Bureau. Because so many minority students go to community colleges, the funding protocol could be improved with an analysis of each college’s revenue streams and evaluation of internal budgetary spending. Increasing federal aid to minority-serving community colleges could reduce student loan debt and equalize the professional playing field for graduates of all races, chipping away at future income inequality.
Throughout the past 30 years, income inequality between minorities and Caucasians has increased—black household income was only 59 percent of white household income and Hispanic households made only 59.5 percent of what white households made in 2011, according to a Jan. 9 Pew Research Center study. Bridging income inequality between white populations and minorities could address some of the lacking financial support for historically black universities and other MSIs.
The CAP report found commendable results for the Obama administration in support for MSI colleges and universities, but increased support could make education more attainable for students of all backgrounds, both economic and racial. Everyone should have access to a quality education regardless of race and financial support is the key to balancing the scales.