Policies to Ensure Equitable Access to Well-Resourced Colleges and Universities [report]

Cindy Le, Elizabeth Davidson Pisacreta, James Dean Ward, Jesse Margolis, Heidi Booth
2020 unpublished
Ithaka S+R provides research and strategic guidance to help the academic and cultural communities serve the public good and navigate economic, demographic, and technological change. Ithaka S+R is part of ITHAKA, a not-for-profit organization that works to advance and preserve knowledge and to improve teaching and learning through the use of digital technologies. Artstor, JSTOR, and Portico are also part of ITHAKA. Copyright 2020 ITHAKA. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution
more » ... 4.0 International License. To view a copy of the license, please see https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/. ITHAKA is interested in disseminating this brief as widely as possible. Please contact us with any questions about using the report: research@ithaka.org. Policies to Ensure Equitable Access to Well-Resourced Colleges and Universities 2 Inequity in higher education access is a persistent problem. One way in which this manifests is through inequitable opportunities to attend the most well-resourced institutions. When students attend limited-resource institutions, they are less likely to persist and earn a credential and typically have weaker labor market prospects. Low-income and racial and ethnic minority students are more likely to attend under-resourced institutions than their wealthier and white peers. These enrollment patterns vis-à-vis institutional resources stand to perpetuate social and economic inequities. In this policy brief, we describe the scope of the problem and the impacts of inequitable access. We then discuss a range of potential solutions and their implications for state policy. While increasing funding and equalizing resources across colleges would be one way to improve access to well-resourced campuses, we recognize this may not be financially or politically feasible, especially given the current economic environment. We also explore the ways that affirmative action, a streamlined application process, financial aid programs, and regulation can improve access for historically underserved students and work to narrow opportunity gaps. By addressing this issue from an array of perspectives, we believe state policymakers can develop a comprehensive strategy to improve equity in higher education. We gratefully acknowledge the Joyce Foundation for supporting this white paper. Inequitable Access, Resources, and Outcomes Inequity in college access is a major problem facing American society and the economy. Lowincome, Black, and Hispanic students are all underrepresented in higher education, with the problem being particularly striking at four-year institutions. 1 Black and Hispanic students in particular are underrepresented at the majority of public colleges. 2 However, these racial and ethnic disparities are even larger at more selective and high-graduation-rate institutions. 3 The disproportionately low enrollment rates of Black, Hispanic, and low-income students at these institutions reinforce existing social and economic stratification by limiting labor market opportunities, social mobility, and wealth creation. These inequities have tremendous consequences for individual and societal outcomes. In fact, those who are least likely to obtain a postsecondary credential-low-income students, racial and
doi:10.18665/sr.313963 fatcat:jtkf3zxqobfp5hgu72ao3gmjfu