New Department of Education Racial Classifications Will Likely Produce a Drop in Number of “Blacks” on College and University Campuses

In the 2000 Census, for the first time, Americans were given the option of checking a box designating that they were biracial. Now the U.S. Department of Education has issued a draft proposal for a new system on how colleges and universities collect data on the racial makeup of their student bodies. Educational institutions receiving any federal financial assistance are required to file annual reports with the Department of Education on the racial makeup of their students.

Under the new system, students will be permitted to check more than one box among the racial groups listed on application forms. In making their reports to the Department of Education, colleges and universities would then lump all students who checked more than one box into a new category called “two or more races.”

It is likely that under the new guidelines the reported percentage of blacks in the student body at many colleges and universities will drop. This is because many students with one white parent and one black parent, or three black grandparents and one white grandparent have typically self-identified themselves as black, in accordance with the traditional “one-drop rule” of American racial designations. These students may now choose to check both the “white” and “black” boxes on application forms and be assigned to the “two or more races category.” This will decrease the number of “black” students in reports sent to the Department of Education, making it difficult to make historical comparisons and to track the progress of African Americans in higher education.