Trends in the Postsecondary Enrollment of Minorities
Many recent press accounts raise concerns that the enrollment of minority individuals, especially black males, in postsecondary education has been declining. Some accounts have portrayed the enrollment decline as one of many indications of a broad range of social problems confronting black males, suggesting a link to problems in other areas, such as income, health, and family composition. Other accounts have pointed to more specific factors, such as changes in the rate at which black males have been enlisting in the military rather than enrolling in college. This report suggests that these press accounts have identified a serious problem but have also oversimplified and exaggerated it. Moreover, many hypothesized explanations do not stand up to closer scrutiny. Viewed closely, the enrollment data do not suggest that black males are the group for which enrollment trends are anomalous — rather, it is white females who are unusual. Overall, enrollment trends clearly tend to be more favorable for whites than for blacks and for females than for males. When one group's enrollments cannot be predicted from those two general patterns, it is white females, rather than black males, who are the exception. The author highlights several important questions that must remain unanswered until more detailed data become available. The data presented confirm that the problem of disparities between whites and minorities in enrollments goes far beyond postsecondary institutions.