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College Access Blog


Since the start of my career eight years ago, I have always made it a habit to have that difficult conversation about student and parent loan debt. I have talked students/families out of bad deals from schools that any counselor would love to have on their resume. For me, going to a "dream school" isn't worth the crushing debt, especially with today's starting salaries for Black and Brown students. I always want my students to have a life where they grow and build a family if they choose to. Over these eight years, I refined my debt conversations with students/families as new resources came out. In this workshop, counselors will learn how to communicate with students and families about college debt before students apply and when they get their financial aid packages/award letters.

A high school counselor named Brittanie Davis attended the session and shared how she shows her students her debt:

There are HBCUs that give great aid. Students, families and counselors need to be willing to look beyond the big name HBCUs.

When I created the blog post called "Diversity Fly-In Programs 2020 With Need-to-Know Data," I noticed something troubling: no school on that list hit 10% Black enrollment. The magic number for Black enrollment seems to always be 5% for these rejective (selective if you want to be nice) colleges (thanks to Akil Bello for the new phrase). After I graduated college, I learned that growing up in New York City, I was in a bubble because I lived in a primarily Black neighborhood and went to primarily Black schools. Of course, NYC has its brand of racism, but I didn't have much interaction with white people growing up because of the forced segregation I experienced.

When I moved to St. Louis and did the research for the post mentioned above, I realized that I was still in a segregated bubble working for mostly low-income Black and Brown students. With specific supportive college programs for the population I've worked with, the actual Black enrollment numbers at rejective colleges never crossed my mind. I once was blind, but now I see.

Today, one of my friends, Alicia Oglesby, asked in a group I'm in about Black enrollment at Predominantly white Institutions. I had meant to dig deeper since I created that diversity fly-in sheet. Her question moved me to act on the subject. My go-to's for data points are Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDs) and College Scorecard. But I struggled a bit with the first data source.

I asked resident college data guru Jon Boeckenstedt how I could get a list of colleges with 50+% white enrollment and 10+% Black enrollment? He sent me back the data instead. I'm grateful, considering he doesn't take requests. I only took out colleges with 50% and less acceptance rate from that data since society is obsessed with selectivity. Then, I added Black graduation rate and net price from IPEDs along with student and parent loan data from College Scorecard.

There is so much to say about this data, but I think the most important thing to point out is that the colleges that are always in the news for their high rejection rates aren't on this list at all. Looking beyond that, I must say that the Black graduation rates and levels of debt at the schools in the data above are alarming.

If you were interested in going beyond selectivity, I suggest the following social mobility resources for colleges that are playing a role in changing our country for the better:

In a world where rejective colleges say Black Lives Matter, their Black enrollment doesn't support what they supposedly believe. It's one thing to enroll Black students, but it's another to make sure they have the mental, social and academic support to graduate and have a career after. If rejective colleges want to actually be about their statements of solidarity, then radical change needs to happen in admissions and on campus in general. For some suggestions, do see my comments in the recent NACAC Journal.

The CSS Profile, used by private colleges and universities to determine institutional aid eligibility, is an essential part of the application process.

But are there unintended consequences of the complex and lengthy application? Far longer and more detailed than FAFSA, the CSS profile is especially burdensome for low-income students.

Join Inversant CEO Heidi Hancock along with Meredith Twombly from Clark University and College Counselor Danny Tejada. They'll discuss economic bias in the CSS Profile and how colleges can adapt and adopt policies around it.

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