Michigan Ranks Near Bottom in Representative Share of Black Enrollment at Public Universities

April 02, 2019, 11:15 AM

Black students are greatly underrepresented at Michigan's public universities, a new study finds.

That shortfall also applies to public community colleges in Michigan, according to a State of Higher Education Equity project by The Education Trust, a nonprofit group based in Washington, D.C. Its Midwest region office is in Royal Oak.

Wayne State graduates at Ford Field last May. (Flickr photo: WSU)

"Michigan ranked the third-worst out of 41 states the report examined for black student enrollment at four-year institutions in 2016," The Detroit News says. "Only 8.7 percent of undergraduates at Michigan's 15 public universities are black."

Seventeen percent of college-age residents (18-25) in Michigan are black, according to the report, and 13.5 percent of the state's adults Michigan are African American.

Not all students on Michigan's public campuses are from the state.

Similar imbalances exist across America. The report, titled "Broken Mirrors," lists this evidence:

  • Black students are underrepresented at four-year public institutions in 37 of the 41 states examined. 
  • Only three of the 41 states we examined had an equitable share of black bachelor’s degree-earners compared to the state’s demographics.
  • In roughly half of the 41 states, black enrollment at community and technical colleges fails to reflect the state’s racial composition of black residents.
  • Black graduates were underrepresented among associate degree earners in 33 states.

In Michigan, 25.9 percent of African American adults have a college degree, compared with 41.6 percent of whites. This state ranks 33rd in that "attainment" category among the 41 analyzed.

Michigan and seven other states "would need to more than double the number of black students earning bachelor’s degrees to match their state’s demographics," says a media release summarizing the data.

Public institutions in too many states are falling short of their obligation to enroll and graduate black students. . . . State leaders aren't making the needed investments in their black residents, leaving out a significant contributor to their state's economic future. . . .

"In every state, policymakers, higher education leaders, and all education stakeholders — from civil rights activists to members of the business community — need to take a hard look at these numbers, figure out why African Americans are being shut out of the opportunities that higher education affords, and do their part to accelerate the movement toward educational justice,” said Andrew H. Nichols, Ph.D., Ed Trust’s senior director of higher education research and data analytics and the report’s lead author.

Oralandar Brand-William of The News distills the statistics for Michigan universities:

  • Eastern Michigan has the highest percentage of black students -- 19.6 percent in 2016, the latest federal data available.
  • Wayne State is next at 17.2 percent, followed by the University of Michigan-Flint with 14.1 percent.
  • Graduation rates for black students are among the nation's lowest, however. Just 17.4 percent of black students at Wayne earn a degree in six years or less.
  • At Saginaw Valley State, 19.5 percent of black student graduate in four to six years. The percentage at Eastern Michigan is 20.4 percent.

The Education Trust says it "works to close opportunity gaps that disproportionately affect students of color and students from low-income families." Its 52-page report is here.

-- Alan Stamm

Read more:  The Education Trust

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