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U.S. Civil Rights Commission Announces Reports on HBCU Effectiveness, Minority STEM Pursuit

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights announced Monday that it has released The Educational Effectiveness of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Encouraging Minority Students to Pursue Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Careers (STEM) briefing reports.

While the HBCU study has not been made public, the commission says it found that HBCU students reported higher levels of academic involvement in their studies and in faculty research projects than Black students at non-HBCUs. Further, HBCUs produce disproportionately higher shares of degrees in STEM fields, according to the commission, which recently posted the STEM study on its website

The commission, led by Bush administration appointees, is known to take conservative-leaning positions on issues, and some of its members have long expressed opposition to race-conscious affirmative action programs.

Earlier this year, the commission issued a briefing report that criticized the use of affirmative action in American law school admissions. Commission chairman Gerald A. Reynolds said in a statement that “race-based admissions have been found to harm minority law students by setting them up for failure.”

“Law schools that continue to use racial preferences despite this evidence should at least disclose the risks of ‘academic mismatch’ to minority student applicants,” Reynolds said.

In the recently-published STEM report, the commission again cited academic mismatch as a substantial factor in the disproportionate rates of attrition in science-related programs for all students, regardless of race, but that racially and ethnically preferential admissions policies contributed to the high attrition rates of Black and Hispanic students in comparison to the median student at the colleges studied by panelists.  

The commission’s findings attributed the success of underrepresented minority students in part to admissions policies that do not create a credentials gap, or “mismatch,” between any particular student and median students in the school or program.  The commission recommended that Black students consider attending colleges where their credentials match those of the typical student and urged researchers to study HBCU successes to help other schools emulate their best practices.

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