Lots More Students of Color in College–and in Debt

An Education Department study finds black students disproportionately in for-profit schools, students of color broadly in public institutions.

By Julianne Hing Jul 16, 2010

From the world of education stats, more news confirming what you probably already knew: across the board, college-going rates are on the up and up. But the gains, while significant, have not been equal. That’s the word from "Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Groups," a new report released yesterday by the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics. College enrollment for students of all races increased by double digits from 1980 to 2008. And between 1976 and 2008, undergraduate enrollment numbers increased the most for Latinos and Asian and Pacific-Islander Americans. But there are striking differences in *where* students of color and white students get their degrees. Most strikingly, given [recent](https://colorlines.com/archives/2010/06/will_a_college_degree_from_wal-mart_be_worth_the_cost.html) [headlines](https://colorlines.com/archives/2010/07/student_loan_default_numbers.html) about for-profit schools, is that for-profits pull their students from communities of color. Fifteen percent of black students attend for-profit schools–more than students of any other race. According to the Career College Association, students of color make up more than 40 percent of for-profit schools’ student bodies, a proportion that’s much bigger than student of color populations at both public universities and private schools. More broadly, students of color were largely in public schools. Among students who were in school in 2008, 81 percent of Latinos were getting their education from public schools, as were 79 percent of Native Americans, 75 percent of APIAs, 73 percent of whites and 68 percent of blacks. The numbers are flipped if you look at private schools, where the student populations are predominantly white. NCES’s other key finding was that while 80 percent of undergrads received financial aid in the form of grants or loans, 92 percent of black students relied on financial aid to pay their bills and depended on more outside funding ($13,500) yearly than any other racial group. For-profit schools have been criticized for targeting financial aid students. It’s not that for-profit schools are inherently evil, and some education is certainly better than none. Many for-profit schools provide flexible schedules and myriad job-training and certification programs with manageable class sizes. But they often get students in the door on promises of improved job prospects that just don’t pan out. And recruiting low-income students is a central part of the for-profit university business plan. Two years ago, for-profit schools made $3.2 billion every year in Pell Grants, the federal money designated for low-income students. And it ends up being these students who get stuck with tens of thousands of dollars in loans when new jobs don’t pan out, which may explain why 40 percent of students who take out federal student loans to attend for-profit schools [eventually default on them](https://colorlines.com/archives/2010/07/student_loan_default_numbers.html). Photo: Creative Commons/[stevendepolo](http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevendepolo/2466137451/in/photostream/)