Underserved students thrive in college, but disparities in access start early and persist insidiously

By: | April 21, 2021

When it comes to understanding which students make it not just to, but through college, substantial past education research has identified steep differences along lines of race, gender and class.

A recently released report, however, provides an alternate narrative.

The study, which links middle and high school achievement to postsecondary outcomes in five New England school districts, finds stark racial and socioeconomic gaps in enrollment at four-year colleges. But after students matriculate, disparities in who continues on toward graduation largely disappear.

While white students in the study enrolled in four-year colleges and universities at more than twice the rate of their Latino peers and nearly a third more frequently than their Black counterparts, the racial differences in postsecondary persistence were comparatively meager. White students persisted in college through their sophomore year at a rate only 15 percent and 6 percent higher than their Latino and Black peers, respectively.

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