Press Release/Statement | January 19, 2023

New Analysis Finds Students Attending Colleges with Higher Percentages of Racially Marginalized Students Owe More in College Debt, Earn Less in Workforce

Washington, D.C. – A new analysis released today by The Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS) found that 10 years after graduation, students who attended colleges that serve greater shares of students of color earn less in income than their peers who attended colleges with fewer students of color. Even more alarming, at colleges serving the largest share of Black students, students owe more in student loans than they originally borrowed.

The analysis, titled “Shifting Narratives: Centering Race in Defining and Measuring College Value,” also points out that current assessments of college value – including economic value and economic mobility – fall short of centering race in its measurements by not accounting for the unique economic conditions of students of color before, during, and after they leave college.

“The promise of a college degree operates on the belief that all students have equal opportunity for economic mobility. But the benefits of a postsecondary credential are significantly shaped by students’ racial and economic backgrounds,” said Dr. Marshall Anthony Jr., TICAS research director and co-author of the Race and Economic Mobility (REM) metric. “As discussions of college value expand, one thing is clear: racializing economic mobility is necessary to analyze the actual benefits of a postsecondary credential.”

Commonly used economic indicators, such as earnings and debt, alone are incomplete measures of college value for communities of color. In fact, wider societal issues like structural racism are shown to cascade into inequities in college affordability but are often left out of college value discussions.

To make up for this gap, TICAS’ new REM metric offers a better gauge of potential economic outcomes by institutions’ composition of racially marginalized students to support its ongoing advocacy for equitable investments in both students of color and institutions serving the largest shares of racially marginalized students.

“This research provides additional evidence that race must be a central component when assessing the value of a college education,” Anthony said.

This new analysis builds on discussions that TICAS is leading about the true value of a college education for different populations of students by race, family income, and geography, while avoiding the pitfalls of current measurements used by national ranking systems, which penalize individual institutions for low student outcomes that are, in part, largely due to inequitable institutional funding.

“The growing evidence that TICAS is collecting further indicates that not every student is getting the same value from their higher education experience,” said Sameer Gadkaree, TICAS president. “As our society becomes more diverse, we need to ensure our higher education system delivers equitable value for students of different racial and economic backgrounds, which will translate to improved economic and mobility outcomes once they enter the workforce.”