A broad look at race, ethnicity in higher ed


The American Council on Education (ACE) on Tuesday released a comprehensive, 300-plus-page report examining race and ethnicity in higher education, including community colleges.

A sample of the findings include:

  • More than one-fifth of Black and African American students (21.8%) earned an associate degree in healthcare fields, compared with 11.7% of Hispanic and Latino students.
  • About 16% of American Indian or Alaska Native students earned an associate degree in manufacturing, military technology and other applied fields, compared to 7.5% of Asian students.
  • More than one in five Asian associate-degree recipients (21.1%) majored in STEM, whereas 8.4% of Black or African American associate-degree recipients did so.
  • More than one in 10 Hispanic or Latino associate-degree recipients (11.3%) studied social sciences and humanities.

ACE held a panel discussion Tuesday on the report, with community colleges represented by Rowena Tomaneng, president of San Jose City College and president of Asian Pacific Americans in Higher Education. She noted the importance of the two- and four-year sectors working more closely to serve students of color.

“Community colleges serve the highest percentage of students of color in postsecondary education,” Tomaneng said. “It is imperative that we work with Research I colleges and universities to ensure that these students have the opportunity to transfer and pursue their education with access and affordability.”

She emphasized the importance of faculty and staff diversity among all sectors, not only at community colleges, which is essential to student success. It creates a sense of belonging and directly affects student success, she explained, noting that 70% of the faculty in her college district are people of color.

Tomaneng concluded that she hopes data from the report can be leveraged across higher education and its respective associations to improve educational goals and attainment among students. She also hopes the findings will bolster advocacy that will allow for “increasing investments” at the federal level.

“This will enable our sector to advance and move the needle, especially for students of color,” she said.

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Kevin Christian is director of diversity, equity and inclusion at the American Association of Community Colleges.

Matthew Dembicki is editor of AACC’s Community College Daily.

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