Report Finds That Enhanced Racial Diversity at Private Colleges in California Has Not Resulted in Any Increase in Economic Diversity

JBHE readers are well aware of the sharp drop-off in black student enrollments at the most prestigious campuses of the University of California. This has happened as a result of the enactment of Proposition 209 in 1996 which banned the use of race in admissions decisions at state-operated colleges and universities in California.

It was widely expected that because of Proposition 209 private colleges and universities in California would have an easier time increasing the racial diversity of their campuses. Indeed this has occurred. Stanford University, Pomona College, and other private colleges and universities have increased the black percentage of their student bodies.

But a new study, conducted by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU) and funded by the James Irvine Foundation, finds that the economic diversity at 22 private colleges and universities in California has actually decreased in recent years. This has happened despite the fact that more blacks are enrolled. In 2000, 26 percent of all students at these 22 colleges qualified for federal Pell Grants for low-income students. In 2004, only 23 percent of all students at these schools qualified for Pell Grants. The percentage of minority students who qualified for Pell Grants dropped from 45 percent to 41 percent during the period.

Author of the report Alma R. Clayton-Pedersen, vice president for education and institutional renewal at AACU, says, “The common myth that minority students are low income and low-income students are minority is as damaging as it is false.”