As the Obama administration presses colleges and universities to get creative in improving racial diversity at their campuses, more Blacks seem to be opting for public two-year colleges or trade schools.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey, the percentage of Black students at those institutions, at 27 percent, was higher than at traditional four-year and private institutions, at 14 percent to 20 percent, in the first decade of the millennium. The comparison comes against a backdrop of increasing numbers and percentages of Black and other minority students attending college overall.
The percentage of college students who were Black rose from 11.3 in 2000 to 14.3 percent in 2009, reflecting not only larger numbers of college-age Blacks, but higher enrollment rates among them overall, Census says.
In December, the U.S, departments of justice and education issued new guidelines to reduce racial segregation in schools, which has been increasing nationwide since a 2008 document of the Bush administration deemed racial quotas “impermissible” and urged colleges and universities to consider “race-neutral” admission policies above all else. Now, under the Obama administration’s guidelines, “institutions are not required to implement race-neutral approaches if, in their judgment, the approaches would be unworkable” in achieving a racially diverse student body.
The new guidelines further allows colleges to grant “an admission preference” to graduates of select schools, including community colleges, based on such demographics as the racial or socioeconomic composition of those schools, and even select high schools for partnership based on criteria that include “racial composition of the school’s student body.”
Choosing which college to attend often is a complicated and stressful decision for Black and other minority high school students, with economic disadvantage all too frequently playing a major role in which schools are seen as viable options. Two-year and technical-school options are particularly attractive, at least immediately after graduation from high school, as private college tuition average $30,000 a year and state institutions about $13,000.
In addition, companies offering jobs that require certification from two-year institutions – and it’s not unusual for these jobs to integrate the use of current or cutting edge technologies – may encourage students to return to school by paying for the employee to further their education. As a result, those who start out with a two-year or trade-school education may end up graduating from a four-year institution and entering the work force with considerably less debt than those who started at a four-year institution.
Students considering enrolling in a two-year post high school institution should check the accreditation of the institution, education experts caution. The rise of online education has creates an opportunity for fraudulent or non-accredited institutions to take advantage of those wishing to further their education at their own convenience.
Moreover, many jobs in today’s market still require a bachelor’s degree rather than certification, meaning certification alone can limit one’s career options, with the snowball effect of limited income over the long term.