Report Finds De Facto Racial Segregation in Virginia’s Public Universities

A new report by Educational Reform Now, finds that de facto racial segregation continues at state-operated colleges and universities in Virginia. The report beings by saying that “Virginia’s higher education system is one the oldest and most respected in the nation, but scratch the surface and you will find a number of four-year institutions that rank near the bottom nationally when it comes to evidencing a meaningful commitment to diversity and socioeconomic mobility.”

Among the findings of the report are:

  • At the University of Virginia, just 13 percent of undergraduates identified as Black or Hispanic; that share is 60 percent lower than the state’s population ages 18 to 24. And the University of Virginia can attract talented Black and Hispanic students from anywhere in the country.
  • William & Mary and Christopher Newport University are located within 50 miles of several cities and counties, including Norfolk, Newport News, Hampton, and Surry County, with populations that are more than 40 percent Black, yet each of their student bodies is just 7 percent Black.
  • James Madison University recently announced it was changing the names of three buildings named after Confederate soldiers. That’s good, but less than 5 percent of students are Black at James Madison, which is located in a state where some 22 percent of all high school students are Black.
  • The same phenomenon is seen at Virginia Tech where only 4.6 percent of the students are Black.
  • One-third of the nation’s 15 worst public colleges and universities on working-class and low-income student enrollment are located in Virginia. While the national average share of undergraduates with Pell Grants is about 30 percent, at The College of William & Mary, University of Virginia, Christopher Newport University, Virginia Military Institute, and James Madison University the share of students with Pell Grants is less than half the national average.

The authors conclude by saying “For too many years, too many of Virginia’s secondary and postsecondary institutions have been coasting, letting high overall average test scores and attainment levels mask underlying inequities in educational opportunity and services. As Virginia and the rest of the nation increasingly come to grips with historic injustices, hopefully, the vestiges of them and present day manifestations will be grappled with and addressed.”

Educational Reform Now is a think tank and advocacy organization that according to its website “develops bold, new ideas that can transform the American public education system from pre-school to and through higher education to better serve all students, especially low-income students and students of color.”

The full report, Scratching the Surface: De Facto Racial & Economic Segregation in Virginia Higher Education,” may be download by clicking here.

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