Study: HBCU Graduates Earn Less Than Black Graduates Of Traditionally White Institutions

Study: HBCU Graduates Earn Less Than Black Graduates Of Traditionally White Institutions
By Marlon A. Walker

A study by two economists gives more reasons for Blacks to attend traditionally White institutions over historically Black colleges and universities, further fueling the debate about the relevancy of the HBCUs.

The economic gains earned by Blacks who attended a historically Black institution, as opposed to Blacks who attended traditionally White institutions, declined dramatically from the 1970s to the 1990s, according to “The Causes and Consequences of Attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities,” by Drs. Roland G. Fryer and Michael Greenstone.

Fryer says data he and Greenstone collected seems to lean toward improvements by traditionally White institutions in educating Blacks being a big part of the reason for the decline in wages of HBCU alums.

“We tried to explore a lot of ways [this could be possible] in the papers,” says Fryer, an assistant professor of economics at Harvard University. “We looked at funding. That’s not it. Then we looked at the types of students. That’s not it. The only thing that seems even plausible is that historically Black institutions have not declined, it’s that traditionally White institutions have enhanced in educating Black students.”

In the 1970s, students attending HBCUs had an 11 percent advantage over their Black counterparts at traditionally White institutions in terms of economic gains. By the 1990s, Blacks at HBCUs were behind
14 percent in terms of salary.

The National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education says that while the study focuses on and specifies the 89 HBCUs used, it only says the traditionally White institutions are “comparable,” possibly skewing the results in favor of the TWIs.

“It is not clear that the comparisons are legitimate, that ‘apples’ are being compared to ‘apples,’” says NAFEO President Lezli Baskerville. “For example, HBCUs educate a significant proportion of low-income, Pell Grant-eligible students. Did the authors control for similar criteria at TWIs? That would make a difference in outcomes.”

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