Posted on April 23, 2014

Amid Affirmative Action Ruling, Some Data on Race and College Enrollment

Phil Izzo, Wall Street Journal, April 22, 2014

The Supreme Court’s affirmative-action ruling Tuesday said that states may end racial preferences at public universities. What are the numbers behind race and college enrollment?

Data from the National Center for Education Statistics suggest that there has been a convergence among races going to college in recent years. But though there has been progress in equal representation in college for high-school graduates of different races, affirmative action can only help with one barrier to higher education. The high-school graduation rates for black and Hispanic students remain low and there are growing disparities by income.

College-enrollment rates by race: Among all high-school graduates, about 67% went to either a two- or four-year college, according to the most recent Digest of Educational Statistics prepared by the Education Department. That number is a three-year moving average for 2012 that aims to smooth out annual volatility.

Breaking it down by race, 69% of Hispanic high-school graduates, 67% of white graduates and 62% of black graduates went on to college in 2012. More than 80% of Asian graduates enrolled in a higher-education program.


Race gaps in enrollment: The disparity between the non-Asian races has been narrowing in recent years. The difference between white and black college attendance went from an average of 13 percentage points from 1980-2008 to just just five percentage points from 2009 to 2012. The gap between Hispanics and whites went from 10 points to five percentage points over the same period. In fact, the most recent data show that a greater share of Hispanic graduates went to college in 2012 than whites.