According to a new report, tuition rates could be behind a growing achievement gap between white and minority students. Early this year, the Young Invincibles released their annual Student Impact Project, an analysis of each state’s public higher education support. One of their new metrics is Attainment Equity, measuring the gap in postsecondary degree attainment between whites, African Americans, and Latinos. This metric revealed some disturbing trends.
College degree attainment is increasing for all groups, but it’s a much faster rate for white students. In 2015 46.5 percent of whites, 33.3 percent of blacks, and 22.6 percent of Latinos held postsecondary degrees. The gap between white students and minority students has actually grown since 2007, and the gap is especially bad for Latinos. “The gap between white non-Hispanic adults and Latino adults with post-secondary degrees grew by 2.2 percentage points between 2007 and 2015.”
Only a handful of states have seen their attainment gaps shrink since 2007, and North Carolina has the third-largest black-white and ninth-largest Latino-white gaps in the country.
Young Invincibles acknowledged some methodological issues: for instance, the Attainment Equity metric doesn’t specify which state the degree was attained in, but where the graduate currently lives. However, the national trend is undeniable, and undeniably troubling. Rising college tuition and falling state funding combine to make college particularly less affordable for low-income families, families who are disproportionately black and Latino.
Recent Young Invincibles polling found that 81 percent of Millennial voters support increasing state funding for public colleges. That support holds across party affiliations, with Republican Millennials at 67 percent, Independents at 82 percent, and Democrats at a whopping (but unsurprising) 92 percent. Roughly 43 percent of Millennial adults – more than any other generation – are non-white, as are about 50 percent of newborns. Higher education access will be a significant voting issue for younger generations for years to come, especially because of post-secondary education’s impact on employment.
A report from the Georgetown Public Policy Institute predicts that by 2020, 65 percent of all jobs in the country will require some kind of post-secondary education and training. If low-income blacks and Latinos get priced out of post secondary education, they’ll be increasingly forced into low-paying jobs. On a micro level, that means they’ll have little chance to develop economic security; on a macro level, their depressed wages will keep holding North Carolina’s economy back.
 Young Invincibles. (January 2016). Student Impact Project: 2016 State Report Cards.” Available at http://younginvincibles.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/YI-State-Report-Cards-2016.pdf
 See note 1.
 Pew Research Center. (March 7 2014). Millennials in Adulthood. Available at http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2014/03/07/chapter-3-finances-social-trends-and-technology/
 Carnevale, Anthony P; Smith, Nicole: Strohl, Jeff. (2014). Recovery: Job Growth and Education Requirements Through 2020. Georgetown Public Policy Institute’s Center on Education and the Workforce. Available at https://cew.georgetown.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Recovery2020.ES_.Web_.pdf