JBHE's Survey Study On Black First-Year Students At The Nation's Leading Liberal Arts Colleges And Universities
An analysis of the liberal arts.
January 19, 2017 at 5:00 pm
The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education has been collecting data on black student admissions for the past 23 years. The ultimate goal of presenting these racially focused statistics is to encourage overall integration within predominantly white institutions.
Though it is true that segregation has been extinguished for over 50 years, it is important to note that social segregation survived for much longer.
According to JBHE, almost all white institutions took part in the “unwritten campus boycott against negroes.” Though laws could be created to put this to an end, the leaders within the justice system possessed the same views as the majority population when it came to blacks. The focus was more so on the inferiority of blacks, physically, and intellectually.
The token black person every now and then was the only exception. This unspoken bias leads to the establishment of the HBCU, or Historically Black College or University. In fact, the whites were more than willing to pay for this, as long as it kept the two races separate.
The issue, however, with these institutions in comparison to the PWI, or Predominantly White Institutions, is that the quality of the teaching and overall experience was less than equal due to the stereotypes surrounding black people and their supposed inferiority.
Though higher education was possible, opportunities were often limited to skilled industrial and trade work.
JBHE’s job is to close the gap that still exists in higher education, while also opening young black students eyes to other opportunities.
This year, JBHE surveys and conducts a study focusing on the shift in the number of black students who are admitted to the nation's leading liberal arts colleges and universities in 2016 compared to previous years, the difference in admission rates, and the percentage of black students who decline to enroll at the nation's leading liberal arts colleges and universities after they’ve been accepted.
When conducting the surveys, JBHE points out their limitations. As opposed to previous years, the U.S. Department of Education (who collect the race data of the undergraduates), changed the measure and qualification of the word “black”.
Initially, biracial, or multiracial students who were partially African American counted towards the black student's data. However, now those students are no longer considered black and will be excluded from the final percentage of first-year black students.
This is significant to note because, with the inclusion of biracial students, multiracial students provided larger percentages.
JBHE believes that these extra numbers are necessary, as these students still add a significant amount of diversity to the nation’s leading liberal arts colleges and universities.
As to remain consistent with the questions, the annual survey that JBHE provides always asks the colleges and universities to include the biracial, multiracial, or black students from Africa who self-identify as black.
This is a sub-categorical limitation stemming from the U.S. Department of Education’s changes, and it is important to note because some of the responding colleges and universities abide strictly to the U.S. Department of Education’s figures.
Other factors to consider are black acceptance rates at liberal arts colleges and universities. Most colleges and universities did not mind disclosing this information, however, of all the colleges and universities surveyed in this study, Amherst College and Wellesley College declined to provide this piece of information.
When looking at the acceptance rates for the past four years, a trend can be seen in regards to the black acceptance rates and overall acceptance rates at these leading liberal arts colleges and universities.
For the first time, in 2012, there were more colleges with black acceptance rates being lower than overall acceptance rates versus the colleges and universities with black acceptance rates higher than the overall acceptance rates.
Though there was a noticeable trend, no solid conclusions can be drawn in reference to colleges and universities filtering applications on the basis of race. It is also pertinent to note that, in some of the colleges and universities with the black acceptance rates being lower than the overall acceptance rates, there is also a student yield to be considered.
This tells you what percentage of the accepted students actually decided to enroll. For example, according to JBHE, at Lafayette College, “55 percent of all accepted Black students decided to enroll.”
This sheds a bit of light on the awkward line that lies between certain black acceptance rates and the actual percentage of Black students making up the first-year class.
As of 2016, Pomona College, located in Claremont, CA, has ranked number one with the highest percentage of black student enrollment for the first time in 23 years.In 2015, they came in second with 14.5 percent black student enrollment, just 1.3 percent lower than in 2016. However, in 2013, Blacks only accounted for a whopping 8.8 percent of the first-year class.
Amherst College, which has ranked first for the last three years, came in second with 15.7 percent of the first-year class being black. This is a significant decline from 2015, where the first-year class was 18.2 percent black.
Coming in at number three in the survey, Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, replaces Williams College with 13 percent of the first-year class being black. This college has jumped up in the ranks significantly seeing that, in 2015, black students only made up 8.1 percent of the entering class.
Williams College, declining by 1.5 percent, ranks number four in the survey with 11.6 percent of the entering class being Black. The decline is not significant as the results still yield a reasonable amount of consistency.
Smith College shows consistency as well by ranking fifth with 11.2 percent black first-year students, showing only a .8 percent decrease from the previous year.
Delivering a significant increase of 3.1 percent, Lafayette College skyrockets from 17th rank to sixth within a year. Black students make up 10.2 percent of the first-year class.
Oberlin College falls in seventh, and it is proceeded by Wellesley College. Wesleyan University follows with 9.1 percent of the first-year class being Black. Compared to 2012, when they ranked number one, Blacks made up 11.3 percent of the entering class.
Rounding up the list of significant factors, Harvey Mudd College ranks 10th with blacks representing 8.8 percent of the entering class. This is a 4.2 percent decline since 2015 and an astounding 7.4 percent increase since 2009.
All in all, 24 colleges and universities were compared from 2015-2016. Of those 24, a total of 23 colleges have changed significantly, with 11 showing an increase and 12 showing a decrease, while Hamilton College has shown no change what so ever.
From 2014-2015, 18 of the surveyed colleges and universities showed a significant increase while only six showed a decline in black student enrollment.
This survey study seems to highlight the decline in black students being accepted and enrolling in these leading liberal arts colleges and universities. There also seems to be no solid confirmation of causation, only a positive correlation between most recent years and the decline in the percentage of Black students that make up the entering class.
With the racial tension created by the election and other political and social injustice stressors, it is not uncommon to assume that one thing caused another. That’s why it is vital to explore different dependent variables such as social influencers, newly established cultural tensions and the comparison between overall acceptance rates between the nation’s leading liberal arts colleges and universities and HBCU’s.
While comparing the HBCU acceptance rates, it would also be of interest to compare the student yield.
Overall, the significant increase in the decline of the percentage of Black students that make up the entering class of the leading liberal arts colleges and universities is something to be explored.