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Report Reveals Racial Disparities at Elite Texas Colleges

A new report suggests funding disparities are contributing to Blacks and Latinos falling farther behind white students in bachelor’s degree attainment. Photo: criene/

by Mary Kuhlman

AUSTIN, Texas – Public college students in Texas are being split into two separate and unequal tracks, according to new research released today.

The report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce showed that white students were disproportionately represented at selective public colleges, comprising 64 percent of freshman enrollment, even though they represent only about half of the college-age population generally. And in Texas, report co-author Martin Van Der Werf explained, Latino students are severely underrepresented at these schools.

“45 out of every 100 college-age young adults are Latino in Texas,” Van Der Werf said, “but only about 27 out of every 100 selective public college students in Texas are Latino.”

Black students account for 13 out of every 100 college-age young adults in Texas, but just six out of every 100 selective college freshman in Texas.

Texas A&M University College Station, Texas State University, University of Houston, University of Texas Austin, and University of Texas Dallas are considered selective public colleges.

Van Der Werf said admissions policies that rely heavily on standardized testing are problematic because they are not a reliable predictor of college graduation rates, but rather an indicator of the quality of K-12 schooling.

“Whites do better on standardized tests. Latinos do second best and blacks, of the three groups, they do the worst,” he said. “And so when you rely on testing as an entry measure, whites are always going to do better.”

The report found Texas selective public colleges received $1,700 per student in 2015, about $800 more than open-access public colleges. And selective public colleges in Texas spend two times as much on instructional and academic support per student.

Van Der Werf said how this money is spent matters, and not just to the students.

“States are funding these colleges; all taxpayers are paying for them,” he said. “And so we wanted to look at who is actually being served by these colleges because if everyone’s paying for these colleges arguably they ought to be serving all members of the public.”

Van Der Werf added spending differences are directly connected to a wide variation in graduation rates. At elite public colleges, students have an 85 percent chance of graduating, compared to just 51 percent at an open-access public college. And he contends it’s contributing to blacks and Latinos falling farther behind white students in bachelor’s degree attainment.

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