Top Colleges Don’t Represent America’s Diversity. How Bad Is It?

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By JEREMY ASHKENAS, HAEYOUN PARK and ADAM PEARCE, The NYTimes

Even after decades of affirmative action, black and Hispanic students are more underrepresented at the nation’s top colleges and universities than they were 35 years ago, according to a New York Times analysis.

The share of black freshmen at elite schools is virtually unchanged since 1980. Black students are just 6 percent of freshmen but 15 percent of college-age Americans, as the chart below shows.

More Hispanics are attending elite schools, but the increase has not kept up with the huge growth of young Hispanics in the United States, so the gap between students and the college-age population has widened.

The Times analysis includes 100 schools ranging from public flagship universities to the Ivy League. For both blacks and Hispanics, the trend extends back to at least 1980, the earliest year that fall enrollment data was available from the National Center for Education Statistics.

Blacks and Hispanics have gained ground at less selective colleges and universities but not at the highly selective institutions, said Terry Hartle, a senior vice president at the American Council on Education, which represents more than 1,700 colleges and universities.

The courts have ruled that colleges and universities can consider race or ethnicity “as one element in a holistic admissions policy, so it’s something that can be considered, but it’s not a magic bullet,” he said.

Affirmative action increases the numbers of black and Hispanic students at many colleges and universities, but experts say that persistent underrepresentation often stems from equity issues that begin earlier.

Elementary and secondary schools with large numbers of black and Hispanic students are less likely to have experienced teachers, advanced courses, high-quality instructional materials and adequate facilities, according to the United States Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

“There’s such a distinct disadvantage to begin with,” said David Hawkins, an executive director at the National Association for College Admission Counseling. “A cascading set of obstacles all seem to contribute to a diminished representation of minority students in highly selective colleges.”

The Ivy League

 Black students make up 9 percent of the freshmen at Ivy League schools but 15 percent of college-age Americans, roughly the same gap as in 1980. (A category for multiracial students, introduced in 2008, has slightly reduced the share of black students.)

At all eight schools, white enrollment declined as Asian enrollment increased. In recent years, the growth of Asian enrollment has slowed at some schools, and some Asian-American students say they are being held to a higher standard.

The number of Hispanic and black freshmen on the University of California campuses declined immediately after California’s affirmative action ban took effect, especially at the most sought-after campuses, said Stephen Handel, associate vice president for undergraduate admissions. The system put the ban in place in 1998.

Even now, both Hispanics and blacks are least represented at Berkeley, the most selective campus. On seven campuses, Hispanics now make up a quarter or more of the freshmen, but that’s still far below their share of the college-age population in the state, which is close to 50 percent.

“Despite the progress the U.C. has made in assembling a more diverse student body, a lot of work remains to be done so that all U.C. campuses reflect the true diversity of the state,” Mr. Handel said in an email.

Top Liberal Arts Colleges

Over all, the share of black and Hispanic students at liberal arts colleges is similar to that at other top schools. Both blacks and Hispanics have gained ground in a handful of colleges, such as Amherst and Pomona.

Other Top Universities

Blacks and Hispanics remain underrepresented at other top universities, even as the share of white students at many of these schools has dropped, in some cases below 50 percent. The largest growth has often been among Asian students.

For example, the share of white freshmen at Rice University in Houston, which was exclusively white until the mid-1960s, declined to 42 percent in 2015 from 87 percent in 1980. Meanwhile, the share of Asian students rose to 30 percent in 2015 from 3 percent in 1980.

Public Flagship Universities

Black students remain underrepresented in a number of flagships in states with a large share of college-age residents who are black.

For example, in Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia and South Carolina, blacks represent about a third or more of each state’s college-age population but less than 15 percent of the freshman enrollment at the flagship university.

At the University of South Carolina’s Columbia campus, black freshman enrollment has declined significantly over the last 15 years. Students on campus have protested racial inequalities.

Many public flagship universities draw students from the state or region, rather than the entire country. While black freshman enrollment at schools like West Virginia University and the University of Nebraska are low, they are on par with the college-age population in those states.

Notes: Data in charts are for undergraduates enrolled in the fall for the first time at four-year universities that grant degrees. From 1980 to 1993, data for students whose race or ethnicity was unknown has been redistributed across other groups.

Students whose race is unknown and international students are excluded from totals. The multiracial category, which was introduced in 2008, and the Native American category are shown when either group is ever above 5 percent of total enrollment.

Enrollment for each racial and ethnic group is reported by the schools, and may be incorrect or not add up to 100 percent. Years in which the total of the groups enrolled was less than 90 percent or more than 110 percent are excluded from the charts. Years in which any single group exceeded 100 percent are also excluded.

Population data for 1990 to 2015 are for 18-year-olds. Population data for 1980 is for 17- to 21-year-olds with high school degrees. The population and enrollment data do not consistently count multiracial or Native American students. To account for this, the percentages on the gap charts use only Asian, black, Hispanic and white counts in the denominator.

Your Editor Encourages: Our Latino leaders, wherever they are, must dream up initiatives to help Hispanics improve education levels.

Latino Teachers Can Change Misconceptions About Our Kids

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by Esther J. Cepeda, NBC News Latino

When it comes to diversifying America’s teaching corps to better reflect the increasing number of Hispanic students, there’s a big question: If Latino public school students rarely see a Hispanic teacher, how will they ever come to see teaching as an attractive profession?

It’s not a trivial concern.

While there’s no specific research data showing that Hispanic students receive an outsized benefit from having teachers with the same background, there are studies that confirm a positive link between teachers of color and the academic achievement of all students.

And a recent study found that low-income black students who have at least one black teacher in elementary school are significantly more likely to graduate from high school and consider attending college.

But while the benefits to an increasingly diverse student body are easily imaginable, one aspect about recruiting more teachers of color is rarely spoken about: How challenging it is to actually be a Hispanic teacher in a teaching corps that is overwhelmingly white (only 8 percent of all teachers are Hispanic).

For starters, becoming a teacher is expensive.

Not only do you need to earn at least a bachelor’s degree but, depending on your state, there are a battery of general and content-area tests to take, each of them costing a nice chunk of change. The capstone test — called the edTPA and now the standard for certification in 16 states and growing — requires a high quality video-taking device, video editing skills and super fast internet access to create and upload an extensive submission.

This is in addition to 15 to 20 weeks of unpaid mandatory student teaching during which you’d have to be crazy to try to work elsewhere — if your university even allowed it — regardless of how dearly you needed the income.

And, as if that weren’t enough of a mountain to climb, for those altruistic souls devoted to teaching in low-income schools where the majority of students are black or Hispanic and the pay is likely to be low, the Trump administration is threatening to end the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which helps teachers who take on these extra difficult teaching assignments.

Then there is the actual experience of being a teacher in a school where there are few or no other teachers of color — it’s not always a walk in the park.

I’ve been blessed to teach in schools chock full of absolutely caring, devoted, selfless and hard-working teachers and administrators who would do practically anything to ensure the academic success of all their students.

But even in such environments of pulling out all the stops to make sure all kids progressed, there were still obvious ways in which white students were seen as academically ready to thrive while black and Hispanic students were considered lesser — too poor, too devoid of resources at home, too far behind peers or otherwise too downtrodden to succeed.

At best, some of these students of color were given extra resources and attention by adults, though sometimes these efforts were tinged with pity. At worst, some kids — even as young as first grade — were simply written off as unsalvageable.

Throughout my years in education I’ve been present at meetings where such students were referred to as stupid or hopeless. Their parents were savaged as being clueless, unhinged or having been purchased by a spouse as a mail-order bride from a foreign country. In one case, my presence was not enough to hold the tongue of a teacher who suggested that a male Hispanic student’s career trajectory would peak with becoming a janitor.

This behavior, however, pales in comparison to the impact minority teachers can make. It may sound trite, but there is relief and even pure joy when minority students experience having a teacher who shares their culture.

A more diverse teacher corps is not a panacea — the single most important factor in student achievement is the quality of the teacher regardless of race or ethnicity.

But if more Hispanic college students can be recruited into teaching through a variety of supports and incentives, the way in which struggling students are perceived in schools can slowly begin to change.

Teaching is not easy or particularly lucrative, relative to other highly skilled professions. But walking into a classroom and being a living, breathing example of all the possibilities that a good education can open up offers its own rewards.

NiLP Note: In the column below, Esther Cepeda raises the important need to recruit more Latinos and Latinas as school teachers. As an example of the problem, I do all I can to point out that despite Latino kids making up the largerst part of the NYC public school system at 41 percent of the total of its 1.1 million enrollment, Latino teachers are only 14 percent of its faculty! As Esther points out, this is an issue that is not receiving the level of attention and concern within the Latino community that it deserves.

 My ex-wife was a bilingual third grade techer, so I got a first-hand glimpse of the sacrifices involved, and of the satisfaction derived from teaching. Hey, even the fact that we’re not married anymore showed additional good judgement on her part as well!
Teachers . . . you can’t live with them and you can’t live without them!

 —Angelo Falcón

Your Editor Encourages:, Our parents to help develop more teachers Despite Angelo’s objections

Building Latino Male Achievement

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One university hopes to narrow the performance gap by providing mentors for Latino undergraduates, who in turn mentor schoolchildren

By Kelly Field; The Chronicle of Higher Education

Middle school-age boys aren’t known for their emotional candor. Boys of color, even less so.

So when Enrique Aguayo asks a group of eighth graders if they are nervous about entering high school, he gets only a couple of nods, and one acknowledgment.

“I’m worried about not passing,” admits Hipolito, a student at Consuelo Mendez Middle School. “I can handle basic math, but algebra – uh-uh.”

“You think you got it bad. I got geometry,” Alberto chimes in.

The boys are more comfortable dissing Enrique, a graduate student in college administration at the University of Texas at Austin. “Your layups are trash,” one boy says. “You work out with calculators,” says another.

Building Latino Male Achievement

One university hopes to narrow the performance gap by providing mentors for Latino undergraduates, who in turn mentor schoolchildren.

Welcome to Project MALES, a mentoring program at Austin that is part of a small but growing effort to get more Latino males into and through college. The program, which pairs undergraduates with middle- and high-school students and graduate students with undergrads, has sent more than 50 mentors into Austin public schools this year. Over pizza and pickup basketball, the student mentors offer lessons in leadership and college preparation.

The push to graduate more Latino men comes as Hispanics are finishing high school and starting college at record rates. Over the past two decades, the share of Hispanic 18- to 24-year-olds enrolled in college has gone from 21 percent to 37 percent, and the number of associate and bachelor’s degrees awarded to Hispanics has more than tripled, according to the U.S. Education Department.

But Hispanics continue to trail their white peers when it comes to college enrollment and completion. While more than half of white 25- to 29-year-olds now hold at least an associate degree, only just over a quarter of Hispanics in that age range do. And Latinos lag behind Latinas, who now earn more than 60 percent of all associate and bachelor’s degrees, and almost two-thirds of master’s degrees, awarded to Hispanics.

Those gaps have been attributed to a variety of factors both economic and cultural. Compared with non-Hispanic white students, Latinos are more likely to attend impoverished schools with inexperienced teachers and high leadership turnover. They are more likely to live in poverty, and less likely to have a parent who attended college.

Hispanic boys, meanwhile, are often socialized in ways that lead them into the work force instead of college. A culture of “machismo” can discourage young Latinos from seeking help when they struggle academically, while familismo – valuing close family ties – can encourage them to work to provide for their families.

That’s an “honorable decision,” says Victor B. Sáenz, one of the founders of Project MALES, but one with profound implications for Latino families and the U.S. economy at large. Hispanics are the nation’s largest minority group, expected to make up 29 percent of the nation’s population by 2060, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Already, 18 percent of the nation’s population, and almost one in every four elementary-school students, is Hispanic.

If these students don’t graduate from college in higher numbers than the current crop of young Latinos, there won’t be enough educated workers to fill the high-skilled jobs left vacant by retiring baby boomers. In forgoing college, young Latino men may be consigning themselves to a “permanent underclass,” Mr. Sáenz, an associate professor of higher education, says.

Project MALES is working to prevent that scenario. By providing middle- and high-schoolers with role models who may be missing in their schools and neighborhoods, its mentoring program aims to create a college-going culture among young Latinos.

There’s still not much concrete evidence of the program’s effectiveness, but early signs are encouraging. In its first seven years, Project MALES has reduced chronic absenteeism in the schools it serves and raised college aspirations among its participants. Undergraduate mentors say the program gave them a sense of community and influenced their decision to pursue graduate school.

More-concrete data could come next year, through an agreement that is giving the program access to the Austin school district’s student-tracking system.

‘A Silent Crisis’

When Mr. Sáenz and Luis Ponjuan published their seminal article, “The Vanishing Latino Male in Higher Education,” in 2008, there weren’t many researchers studying Latino males. While colleges were working to close the achievement gap between black men and women, the divide between Latinos and Latinas remained “a silent crisis,” Mr. Sáenz says.

So the researchers started Project MALES (Mentoring to Achieve Latino Educational Success). Since its inception at one high school in 2010, the program has grown to serve eight middle and high schools and more than 100 students.

The project, which works in groups and one on one, targets students who are neither certain to attend college nor likely to drop out of high school. Most are Latino, though the program also serves African-American boys. Two-thirds of mentees do not have a parent or guardian who attended college.

Many of the mentors are first-generation students themselves, but they’re not exclusively male. In fact, more than half are female – a share consistent with the UT student population. Emmet E. Campos, the director of Project MALES, says some of the mentees relate to women better than to men. “For a lot of these young men, the father is absent or works two jobs,” he says. “So their role models are women – their mom, their abuelita.”

While the program encourages students to attend college, it doesn’t insist on a degree. Its focus is less on academics than on social and emotional development – the soft skills students need to succeed in college and in life.

One of those skills is coping with failure. Latino boys, who are traditionally given a position of privilege in the family, aren’t being raised to be as resilient as Latina girls, Mr. Sáenz says. “At the first sign of failure, they tend to throw in the towel,” he says. “They’d rather go out and be a bread-winner.”

Project MALES both acknowledges and challenges Latino cultural and gender norms. Mentors share data on the economic benefits of a college degree, showing students that it could make them better providers. They teach boys how to manage debt so they’re less nervous about borrowing. (Latinos are often debt-averse). But they also teach mentees how to ask for help, and create an environment where the young men feel comfortable opening up.

The program’s reliance on undergraduate mentors is both a strength and a limitation. Middle- and high-school students can see themselves in the mentors, who are often a couple years older than them. At times, though, the program has been “stretched for numbers,” says Mike Gutierrez, program coordinator for Project MALES.

Finding enough graduate students to match the growing number of undergraduate mentors has been a challenge, too. This year, the program switched to a more informal mentoring arrangement: Grad students teach a service-learning class and offer guidance to students considering grad school.

These days, more colleges are paying attention to Latino male success, offering mentoring and peer groups along with academic advising and study skills. But programs for black men and “men of color” generally still far outnumber programs for Latinos, according to a recent survey by the social policy research group MDRC. Another recent survey suggests that may be partly because some college leaders still aren’t aware of the Latino-male achievement gap, or fear that creating targeted programs could create a political backlash.

Comparing student-success programs for minority men is hard, since colleges track a variety of student outcomes and measure them differently. Mr. Ponjuan, an associate professor of education and human development at Texas A&M University, says colleges need to build a “culture of evidence” for such programs. He oversees program evaluation for a consortium of colleges that Project MALES created in 2014 to spread best practices. “A lot of institutions are not taking the time to do the granular analysis to see how their policies and programs are affecting students” of different races and genders, he says.

Back at Consuelo Mendez Middle School, Enrique Aguayo, the graduate student, is urging the boys to come to the university’s summer leadership academy. They’re noncommittal, until he tells them “it’s going to be a party with Con Mi Madre,” a college-prep program for Latina girls.

“For real?” asks Billy, intrigued.

Victoria Martínez, then a senior at UT, says it was “really difficult” getting the boys to talk, at first. Now, at the end of the year, “I have one student I call chicle, because he sticks to me, like gum.”

Kelly Field is a senior reporter covering student success, equity, and federal higher-education policy. Contact her at kelly.field@chronicle.com. Or follow her on Twitter @kfieldCHE. This article is part of: Building Latino Male Achievement

Obstruction of Justice and the Separation of Power

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By Xavier Suárez, Community Newspapers

I was studying law at Harvard when the first “special prosecutor” was appointed. His name was Archibald Cox and he taught Constitutional Law at the law school.

As it happened, he and I were the first two people to arrive at the law school cafeteria, which opened at 7:30 a.m. I saw him sitting by himself, reading the Boston Globe, its headlines referring precisely to Cox’s appointment.

I admired Cox for his brilliance and his rectitude. I also identified with him in a special way when he chose my own Constitutional Law professor, Philip Heymann, as his deputy in the investigation and prosecution of the president’s involvement in the Watergate scandal.

When both professors came back to teach law — after being fired in circumstances similar to the James Comey firing by Donald Trump — Heymann became my advisor in a law school paper on the topic of Congressional Immunities.

That paper was later published as a law review article.

Unfortunately, the eminent law professor fell into the same trap as many prosecutors and lawyers who I have recently heard opining on the possibility that the current president could be charged criminally with “obstruction of justice” for firing the director of the FBI, while said official was supervising an investigation that allegedly deals with the president’s own conduct.

The flaw in their analysis is that they are treating “obstruction of justice” in the criminal law sense of the word.

This approach is tantamount to ignoring the role of the president in our system of government. I heard one former U.S. Attorney say that it would depend greatly on whether Comey felt “threatened” with dismissal if he carried out his functions in the investigation of Russian interference with the U.S. Election.

That idea is laughable, though it would not surprise me if some judge would rule that way, given the erosion of both presidential and congressional authority that has been caused by the special prosecutor episodes in recent American history.

The book to read on that is by Bob Woodward and is titled Shadow. What Woodward describes, beginning with Watergate, and ending with the silly and sorry episode involving a president being impeached for having consensual sex with an intern named Monica Lewinsky.

It is a four-decade history of a Congress unwilling to do its constitutional duty under the impeachment provisions and simultaneously unable to rein in a judiciary that is only too willing to take over the entire field of presidential misconduct.

In the Clinton impeachment “prosecution,” the president was charged with providing “perjurious, false and misleading testimony” in a civil case related to the Lewinski scandal. But that is precisely where prosecutors and courts have failed to understand the exquisitely balanced governmental scheme concocted by the founders of this great democracy.

A correct analysis of that entire embarrassing and costly odyssey would conclude that there is no basis whatsoever to elicit testimony from a sitting president in a civil matter, particularly where the testimony deals with his own conduct in engaging in sexual acts with a consenting adult. That certainly does not qualify as an impeachable offense, which is defined as “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”

The official immunity of a president should be understood in light of the legislative immunity of members of Congress, under Article I, Section 6 of the Constitution — from which, parenthetically, all official immunities derive.

That provision makes clear that a member of Congress shall not be questioned “in any other place” than the legislature itself. To suggest that presidents can be brought before a grand jury or a judge to be questioned about exercising a proper presidential power (dismissal of an official who serves at his pleasure) is a colossal failure to understand the Constitution, which vests the power of impeachment exclusively on the Congress.

Congress is right to investigate the extent to which a sitting president interferes with an ongoing investigation by his own department of justice. Its powers are unlimited in this area, and its judgment whether to impeach or not is undiminished and inalterable by either a court or an executive. But it should not do so using either procedures or substantive law derived from the canons that apply to common criminals.

Moreover, Congress has its own power of subpoena and its own power to sanction those who disobey by holding them in contempt of Congress. It can hire its own investigators, question under oath whomever it wants — including the president himself — and issue articles of impeachment not only for improper conduct but for obstructing its own investigation.

Congress could theoretically find that the presidential dismissal of an FBI director is an impeachable “high crime or misdemeanor.” But a court cannot, not even the Supreme Court.

Why lawyers and prosecutors cannot understand that is beyond me.

Xavier Suárez is the former mayor of Miami Dade County and current County Commissioner.

Your Editor Adds:  It runs in the family.  Suárez´s son, Francis, is also a Miami Dade commissioner and candidate for Dade County mayor.  

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