'We Are Failing Our African American Students': Board Of Higher Ed Equity Report Shows Success Gaps

Aug 5, 2020

Black and Latinx college students in Illinois aren’t as successful as their white peers. That’s according to a new state report.

Ginger Ostro is the executive director of the Illinois Board of Higher Education. Her message on the results of the equity report was clear.

“In nearly every measure, we are failing our African American students,” she said

The report says there are significant disparities in everything from enrollment, retention and completion to post-college earnings.

The data for Latinx students looks slightly better. But they still lag behind white students by most indicators.

Illinois has the seventh largest gap in the nation of bachelor’s degree attainment by white students versus Latinx students. It has the 11th largest gap for Black students.

“From their first year out, second and third year out from their degree, African Americans earn less than their white counterparts,” said Ostro. "And as we look at this over time, the gap actually grows.”

Latinx students graduating from Illinois universities also make less money than white classmates with the same education level.

In order to try and close those gaps, Illinois officials say the state needs to invest more in dual-credit classes that can get students college credits early.

Schools also need to overhaul developmental courses that minority students are disproportionately put into without earning any credit towards graduation.

Ostro says Illinois is allocating almost half of its $108 million COVID emergency education relief fund to higher ed.

The pandemic has highlighted various inequities within education. She says the largest proportion of that money is going to schools that serve a higher percentage of Pell Grant students, who may be low-income and therefore hit hardest by the pandemic.

A decade ago, Illinois launched the “60 by 25" goal. That meant 60% of adults would have a college degree or credential by 2025.

The state isn’t on track to meet that goal. And Ginger Ostro said if Illinois doesn’t close equity gaps for minority as well as rural students, reaching it will be impossible.