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Updated ACE Report Reveals Progress, Persistent Disparities

Though the number of Hispanic and Black students enrolling in undergraduate programs has increased in recent years, completion rates continue to lag somewhat behind, according to a report released by the American Council on Education (ACE).

Dr. Ted MitchellDr. Ted MitchellThe Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education: 2024 Status Report” comprises updated data showing significant disparities in attainment levels among underrepresented groups by race and ethnicity despite growing diversity. It examines over 200 indicators to determine who accesses a variety of educational environments and experiences, to explore how student trajectories and outcomes differ by race and ethnicity, and to provide an overview of the racial and ethnic backgrounds of faculty, staff, and college presidents.

“Despite some progress, racial disparities are still alarmingly high, especially in light of the Supreme Court’s decision to end race-conscious admissions,” said ACE President Dr. Ted Mitchell. “This report is timely for everyone involved in higher education — administrators, researchers, policymakers. It allows us to examine the current state of race and ethnicity in higher education and strive to bridge these equity gaps.”

For example, the report found that the number of Hispanic or Latino students earning bachelor’s degrees rose about 10%, from 2002 to 2022, but the rates for white and Asian students grew even faster. Completion rates for Black students — who also borrow at the highest rates (49.7%) across sectors and income groups — were consistently lower than those of any other racial and ethnic group.

Bachelor’s degrees were mainly earned by Asian, white, and multiracial students, while other minority groups earned a larger share of associate degrees and certificates, according to the report.

At an event in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, ACE leaders discussed the findings, followed by a panel that included higher education leaders and advocates. 

"Many things have advanced, but the work goes on," said Lodriguez Murray, senior vice president of public policy and government affairs at the United Negro College Fund (UNCF). "This data is right in front of our face, and we have to decide where in higher education we want to go?"

The leaders called for the doubling of Pell Grants to help make higher education more affordable and accessible. 

"We have to focus on effective practices that are supporting our students," said Dr. Rowena Tomaneng, president of San Jose City College and Asian Pacific Americans in Higher Education.

The report builds on the findings from preceding publications in the "Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education" series, taken from eight data sources including the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Census Bureau.

Jamal Watson contributed to this article.

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