Black students in the UC system face persistent racial equity gaps, as supported by a study published by The Campaign for College Opportunity (CCO) in February 2019.
CCO is a nonprofit organization that aims to ensure that all Californians have an equal opportunity to succeed in higher education. The organization’s most recent study, “The State of Higher Education for Black Californians,” showed that many of the 2.2 million Black Americans in California struggle to earn post-secondary degrees and credentials. CCO reported that this problem prevents upward mobility in California’s modern economy.
Black student enrollment within the UC system remains severely low, making up only two percent of the total undergraduate population. Their low retention and graduation rates reflect obstacles on their path to higher education attainment. In 2017, Black students’ six-year completion rate at all UC campuses was 75 percent, compared to 86 percent for white students. The report also estimates that 25 percent of Black UC students left without a bachelor’s degree.
The report further reveals that in the 2016–2017 academic year, only 35 percent of Black American high school graduates were considered prepared for college, compared to 52 percent of white graduates. Of the two-thirds of Black American adults that have attended college, 49 percent did not graduate from their program of choice. These outcomes indicate significant barriers to Black student success, such as poverty and lack of access to quality K–12 education.
To improve the Black experience in higher education, CCO continues to advise campus leaders to create welcoming environments that provide Black students a sense of belonging by hiring more Black professors and administrative officials. In 2018, CCO’s “Left Out” diversity report found out that Black people only hold 3 percent of all faculty and senior leadership positions within the UC system.
A 2015 UC-based study on campus climate showed that 47 percent of Black students who attended UC San Diego from 2008 to 2014 reported not feeling respected on campus, the second-highest percentage behind UC Berkeley.
This lack of representation has fueled racially charged incidents, namely the Compton Cookout in 2010, in which a fraternity at UCSD hosted a party promoting negative stereotypes about Black people. In response to the outbreak of campus protests, UCSD administration added the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) requirement to the university’s general education curriculum.
CCO recognizes the need for not only more diversity on college campuses, but also more support towards Black student success. The report offers other policy recommendations, including: a “statewide college attainment goal” to close racial equity gaps, a strategy to encourage Black adults who dropped out of college to complete their studies, an implementation of community college reforms to smoothen degree and transfer pathways, and financial aid to help low-income families afford the full cost of college.
“This report highlights the continued struggles faced by black students who are pursuing a higher education in California,” Devon Graves, 2018–19 UC student regent, said. “I encourage policy makers and higher education administrators to implement these recommendations in order to ensure that we are equitably serving all Californians.”
Thi Nguyen is a Staff Writer for The Triton.