The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

UNC receives poor rating in diversity report

A recent report by the University of Southern California's Race and Equity Center suggested minority students at UNC-Chapel Hill are poorly represented on campus.

Using data from both the U.S. Census and the U.S. Department of Education, USC’s Race and Equity Center evaluated nationwide postsecondary access and student success for Black undergraduates. The center decided to analyze only public schools, excluding private schools and historically Black colleges and universities from the study. 

Letter grades were awarded to each university based on performance in representation equity, gender equity, completion equity and Black student-to-faculty ratio. In each of these categories, institutions were able to receive a rating of A, B, C, D, F or I. 

Representation equity described the extent to which a Black individual's enrollment in an academic institution reflects the representation of 18 to 24-year-olds in the respective state. 

Gender equity analyzed the proportionality of Black men and women enrolled at an institution. 

Completion equity reviewed Black students' six-year graduation rate compared to overall graduation rates, and the Black student-to-faculty ratio measured the proportion of Black undergraduates to full-time Black instructional faculty on campus. 

UNC-Chapel Hill received an F in representation equity, a D in gender equity, a B in completion equity and an A in Black student-to-faculty ratio. 

Isaiah Simmons, a research associate at the USC Race and Equity Center, helped co-author the report. He said the study was designed to bring attention to a lack of diversity in the national postsecondary education system. 

“One of the things that we identified in the report is we wanted to look at intentional steps that schools are taking towards recruiting Black students and students of color in general,” he said.  

Simmons said representation directly contributes to the academic success of minority students. 

According to the report, public postsecondary education is a public good that has failed to offer equitable access to prospective Black students. 

Black citizens, according to the report, represent roughly 15 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds in the U.S., but only about 10 percent of full-time undergraduates in the nation’s public university system are Black.

But Jenna Robinson, president of the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, said the study’s grading scale was misleading. 

“I think that there are some parts of education that are a public good — having an educated populace is certainly something that benefits everyone and that we all share in," she said. "I think that’s more true of primary education than it is true of postsecondary education, but I also think that, looking at equity and looking at it in the way that they’ve done in this report is very, in some ways, assigning blame where I don’t think there should be any blame assigned.”

The completion equity category, for example, awarded grades solely based on differences in graduation rates between Black students and the university’s overall graduation rates. So while UNC-Chapel Hill has a Black student graduation rate of 85 percent, the school only received a B rating.

Comparatively, UNC-Pembroke, which has an overall graduation rate of 35.4 percent, received an A even though the school has a 35.5 percent Black student graduation rate. 

Robinson said she feels North Carolina has made a significant effort to recruit and retain minority students due to the many HBCUs in the state. 

“Elizabeth City State, Fayetteville State, N.C. Central, Winston-Salem State University — that’s a lot of public historically Black colleges and universities, and of course we also have Pembroke, that is historically minority," Robinson said. "And so given that we are a system of sixteen (total public universities) and four are predominantly African-American institutions, and another is a minority institution, I think that shows that North Carolina has made a good faith effort to make sure that access is available to minority students."

The schools Robinson mentioned, however, are HBCUs. The study was meant to draw attention to how non-historically Black institutions provide opportunities for Black students.

Simmons hopes the study can serve as a guide for Black students to feel safe and supported on campus — not just in brochures for diversity, but within the structure of the institution.

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.