Are Public Universities Failing in Their Mission to Enroll Minority and Low-Income Students?

Public universities in this country were established to give the common man access to higher education. State universities receive operating subsidies to keep their costs low so that middle-class citizens can afford to go to college.

But in a new report entitled Opportunity Adrift, The Education Trust, a research organization based in Washington, D.C., maintains that many of our public universities are failing in their mission. The report presents data which shows that in several states, the student demographics at the flagship university are not close to the demographics of the college-age population in the particular state. For example, in Georgia, in the spring of 2007, minorities made up 39 percent of the students who graduated from high school statewide. But the next fall, minorities made up just 9.4 percent of the students who enrolled at the University of Georgia.

The racial disparities are not confined to southern flagships. In Michigan, 20 percent of the high school graduates are minorities. But in 2007 minorities made up only 12.5 percent of the incoming students at the University of Michigan.

Furthermore, the report shows that in at least 15 states, the highest-ranked private universities enrolled a greater percentage of minority students than the flagship state university in that state. For example, at Dartmouth College, 21 percent of the student body are minorities. At the University of New Hampshire, only 5 percent of the students are minorities.

The full report can be downloaded at The Education Trust Web site.