April 19, 2016

Professor Investigates Black and Latino Student College Choices

Micere Keels, a professor in the Department of Comparative Human Development, recently published a study that highlights a disparity between where black and Latino students choose to enroll and their chances of graduating from that college.

Beyond Enrollment Rates: The Gaping Disparity in Where Black, Latino, and White Students Enroll, which examines where black and Latino students in the freshman classes of 2013 and 2014 chose to enroll, suggests that there is a correlation between a college’s historical ability to graduate black and Latino students and the likelihood of current black and Latino college students to succeed. Her study reports that only 10 percent of Latino freshmen enrolled in colleges where more than two-thirds of past Latino students had graduated. Similarly and even more drastically, only four percent of black freshmen enrolled in colleges that graduated more than two-thirds of past black students.

Keels, the primary faculty investigator of the project, explained that she was interested in this topic because she found in her previous studies that there was little focus in black and Latino college students’ counseling process on evaluating schools based on individual familial and financial circumstances. She noted that while college counselors heavily emphasized college applications and acceptances, students were not encouraged to critically consider where to go to college. In addition, she noticed a discrepancy between college enrollment and graduation rates for black and Latino students. While college enrollment rates from 1996 to 2012 increased by 72 percent among blacks and 240 percent among Latinos, only 22 percent of blacks and 15 percent of Latinos held a college degree in 2014. These discoveries made Keels wonder what hindered the success of black and Latino students in college.

The results of her research illuminate the inconsistency between black and Latino student graduation rates versus those of white college students. Her data suggests that the majority of black and Latino college students are less likely to graduate and more likely to drop out laden with student debt than white college students. The full report, which lists the graduation rate of blacks and Latinos of more than 1,800 schools is available online on her EdTalk website. Her EdTalk project is a compilation of reports and information from her various individual research studies released online so that it is more useful to the general public.

Reflecting on her research and its implications on the college counseling process, Keels said, “If we understand that college has a lot of financial and psychological costs, we should spend more time helping students get into the best institution that will meet their needs and where they will have as good a chance as possible to graduate, rather than just getting as many students to go anywhere.”

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