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It’s Time To Stop Marginalizing African Americans In Public Higher Education

THE SEATTLE MEDIUM — Higher education officials and policymakers alike need to ensure that these universities are not underserving Black students.

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By Spencer Overton, The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies

Students across the country are putting final touches on their applications for some of our country’s most prestigious public institutions. Higher education officials and policymakers alike need to ensure that these universities are not underserving Black students.

Unfortunately, there’s a lot of work to do. A new study from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce shows that African Americans aren’t attending selective colleges (e.g. the University of Michigan, University of South Carolina, University of Houston, and others) at the same rates as their White peers. Even states with a sizable population of average-college-aged Black people (18-24 years old) are falling short. In Delaware, for example, African Americans account for 26 percent of 18-24 year olds, but only 6 percent of students at the University of Delaware.

These public colleges should serve a representative cross-section of students, and be engines of mobility for all students. Unfortunately, they are not. White students make up 54 percent of 18-24 year olds, but account for 64 percent of freshman enrollment in selective public colleges. Meanwhile, Black students account for 15 percent of 18-24 year olds in the United States, but only 7 percent of students in public selective colleges.

Some argue that African American students are less qualified to attend selective enrollment schools, but that isn’t the case. Among students who score in the upper half of standardized test scores, 31 percent of White students enroll in a selective college, but only 19 percent of Black students get that chance. All of these students are highly likely to graduate—students in the upper half of high school test distribution scores have an 85 percent chance of graduating from college. And evidence suggests that some schools may over-rely on these scores, a practice that may over-emphasize affluence and access to quality K-12 schooling. This can hide race and class inequality behind a façade of quantitative metrics.

The Georgetown study also acknowledges Black students may be choosing to attend colleges other than the highly selective public universities. In fact, Black students are going to college in greater numbers than ever. Unfortunately, the open-access colleges they are attending are overcrowded and under-resourced. This is likely affecting their chances of obtaining a degree, as graduation rates are significantly lower for students at open access colleges than they are at selective schools.

America’s higher education system sees the problem, but it is getting worse, not better. Over the last decade, Black representation at selective public colleges fell. For every 100 average college-age African Americans, four fewer are attending public selective colleges than a decade ago. The largest Black underrepresentation in selective public colleges is in the Deep South. In Mississippi, for example, African Americans account for 44 percent of 18-24 year olds, but only 11 percent of students at the state’s selective public college (the University of Mississippi).

The same states where African Americans are underrepresented in selective public colleges are also underfunding the open-access colleges that African Americans attend. According to Georgetown’s study, selective public colleges spend nearly three times more on instruction and academic support than open access colleges. At a time when we need to further invest in developing a skilled workforce for a changing labor market, it’s more important than ever to adequately support public open-access colleges and hold selective public colleges accountable to avoid underserving Black students.

We must bring an end to this separate and unequal education system. It is in our country’s best interest to engage with people from all communities to reach their educational potential. Increasing skills and expanding the number of people who have access to higher paying jobs will help grow the economic pie for all Americans.

Adequately supporting open-access colleges and holding selective public colleges accountable for educating people from all communities would take us a long way toward a public university system that truly serves the best interests of all members of the public.

This article originally appeared in the Seattle Medium

Black History

13-Year-Old Girl Becomes Youngest Person Accepted into Medical School

Thirteen-year-old Alena Analeigh Wicker received an early acceptance to the University of Alabama, Birmingham’s Heersink School of Medicine under its Burroughs Wellcome Scholars Early Assurance Program. The program partners with Black schools in Alabama to offer students early acceptance as they plan to enter medical school.

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Alena Analeigh Wicker. Girls United photo.
Alena Analeigh Wicker. Girls United photo.

From Black Doctor.org

Getting into medical school is no small feat, but imagine doing it at just 13 years old. While most 13-year-olds are heading to high school, Alena Analeigh Wicker has made history by becoming the youngest Black person – and the youngest person ever – to get accepted into medical school.

“Today I’m just grateful. I graduated high school last year at 12 years old and here I am one year later I’ve been accepted into Med School at 13,” Wicker wrote on Instagram last week. “Statistics would have said I never would have made it. A little Black girl adopted from Fontana, California. I’ve worked so hard to reach my goals and live my dreams.”

She received an early acceptance to the University of Alabama, Birmingham’s Heersink School of Medicine under its Burroughs Wellcome Scholars Early Assurance Program. The program partners with Black schools in Alabama to offer students early acceptance as they plan to enter medical school.

Wicker, who is currently a junior at Arizona State, has always been ahead of her time.

After graduating high school, she was able to complete more than half of her undergraduate requirements at Arizona State University (ASU) and Oakwood University in just one year.

Wicker grew up loving to build things and previously had dreams of building robots for NASA. However, after a trip to Jordan with The Brown STEM Girl foundation, she fell in love with biology and realized that wasn’t the route she wanted to go.

“It actually took one class in engineering, for me to say this is kind of not where I wanted to go,” she told 12 News.” I think viral immunology really came from my passion for volunteering and going out there engaging with the world.”

Her goal?

“What I want from healthcare is to really show these underrepresented communities that we can help, that we can find cures for these viruses,” she added.

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Activism

Oakland’s Girls Inc Takes Senior Summer Participants on College Tours

During this year’s Senior Summer, the Girls Inc., at 516 16th St., took their participants on four college tours: On two consecutive Fridays — July 8 and July 15– the girls went to California State University, Sacramento; California State University, Monterey Bay; University of California, Davis; and UC Santa Cruz. The tours were led by two Girls Inc employees, Gabi Reyes-Acosta and Judy Cordova.

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College Access Now (CAN) is among many free programs offered to girls ages 8 to 18. CAN has three parts: CAN Junior, Senior Summer, and CAN Senior. (Pictured: Daisha Williams)
College Access Now (CAN) is among many free programs offered to girls ages 8 to 18. CAN has three parts: CAN Junior, Senior Summer, and CAN Senior. (Pictured: Daisha Williams)

By Daisha Williams

Girls Inc., a national nonprofit with a branch in downtown Oakland, hosted Bay Area girls in a program to help them navigate crucial parts of their lives such as the college admissions process.

College Access Now (CAN) is among many free programs offered to girls ages 8 to 18. CAN has three parts: CAN Junior, Senior Summer, and CAN Senior.

During this year’s Senior Summer, the Girls Inc., at 516 16th St., took their participants on four college tours: On two consecutive Fridays — July 8 and July 15 — the girls went to California State University, Sacramento; California State University, Monterey Bay; University of California, Davis; and UC Santa Cruz. The tours were led by two Girls Inc employees, Gabi Reyes-Acosta and Judy Cordova.

The girls in the program are primarily people of color who come from low-income households.

Program participant Victoria Pascual said that she would not have had access to these tours if Girls Inc. hadn’t provided them. She also said that her family might not have had the money to take her on these tours. “It would’ve been a lot harder to find the time for myself to go to these places… I would’ve been needing to do other things like my internship or taking care of my family.”

Further, the girls can see their future selves in the Girls Inc. employees.

Judy Corvoda, the CAN program leader, revealed a bit about her background, which is similar to the backgrounds of many girls in the program.

“Being a first-generation Latina, eighth-grader, school was definitely not buzzing in my mind yet,” Cordova said. “It was with Head Royce I got the opportunity to go on a field trip where we learned about college as well as met admission employees from universities all over the United States.

“That is where I learned of UC Merced,” which she went on to graduate from. “This was the only way I got college tours when I was young since coming from an immigrant family, it is hard to find resources. That is why I am so thankful for HeadsUp (a Head Royce equivalent program to CAN) to have given me that opportunity and thankful to Girls Inc for letting me shine light on college as well as giving resources to students without limits!”

Next week: What it 3as like on the tours.

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Activism

City Council Calls for Investigation of Merger of Mills College with Northeastern University

Claudia L. Mercado, Mills alumnae and advisor of the Save Mills College Coalition, said, “This historic women’s college and Hispanic-serving Institution was intended to serve women’s education for generations to come, not traded on the open market for pennies. 

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Speaking in front of Oakland City Hall at a press conference to save Mills College on Tuesday, July 19, 2022, were: Claudia Mercado, Mills Alumnae; Council President Pro Tempore Sheng Thao; Brandon Harami, Sheng Thao's council aide; Kieran Turan, vice president of Save Mills Coalition; and Kimberly Jones, Kaplan's chief of staff. Photo by Ken Epstein.
Speaking in front of Oakland City Hall at a press conference to save Mills College on Tuesday, July 19, 2022, were: Claudia Mercado, Mills Alumnae; Council President Pro Tempore Sheng Thao; Brandon Harami, Sheng Thao's council aide; Kieran Turan, vice president of Save Mills Coalition; and Kimberly Jones, Kaplan's chief of staff. Photo by Ken Epstein.

By Ken Epstein

The Oakland City Council this week unanimously passed a resolution celebrating Mills College as the oldest women’s undergraduate college in the West and called for an investigation of the decision of Mills’ board and administration to merge the institution with Northeastern University – saying that the merger was “sudden and had very little transparency.”

At a press conference on City Hall steps, hosted by Council President Pro Tempore Sheng Thao and Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan, Mills’ alums and members of the Save Mills Coalition vowed to continue to continue pushing for an investigation of the deal even though it was finalized on June 30.

Said Kieran Turan, vice president of Save Mills College Coalition, “It’s deeply troubling how little oversight there is in California for non-profit small colleges, even those with the historic importance of Mills. (This council resolution) will help us take this issue up to the state and federal level. Mills College deserves justice. Women’s colleges are particularly at risk.”

Claudia L. Mercado, Mills alumnae and advisor of the Save Mills College Coalition, said, “This historic women’s college and Hispanic-serving Institution was intended to serve women’s education for generations to come, not traded on the open market for pennies.

“We must hold the Mills administration leadership accountable who were responsible for actively undermining a viable California higher-ed ecosystem and safe space for women, BIPOC and LGBTQ+ students. Bad higher-ed leaders should not be allowed to fail forward and monetize on the hardships of students and community members.”

In her remarks, Thao said, “As a Mills Alum, I was deeply troubled when the university declared it was closing after 170 years of service. With women and the LGBTQ+ community under attack across the country, it is incredibly important that institutions like Mills be preserved.”

“This merger was sudden, confusing, and done with very little transparency,” she continued. “Many faculty members (including tenured faculty) lost their jobs while students from around the world suddenly found out the programs they were in were cut. This process has been incredibly disruptive to the lives of thousands of people.”

In a prepared statement, Kaplan said, “Without warning or attempt to work with the student body, alumni groups or any other stakeholders, in March 2021, the Mills College Board and administration announced that the school was going to close because of financial hardship? All of a sudden? Without warning?”

She pointed out that Mills has “always been on the cutting edge of women’s rights (and) equality,” the first women’s college to offer a computer science major and the first women’s college to openly accept transgender students. Famous alumni include filmmaker Sofia Coppola, the late actress Olivia de Haviland and Oakland’s member of Congress Barbara Lee, she said.

Kaplan called for an investigation by the U.S. Department of Education and the California Bureau of Private and Post-Secondary Education.

“From the beginning, students and alumni have asked questions that haven’t been adequately answered. But the process continued, and the merger with Northeastern was proposed. Still, student and alumni questions were not answered.”

“But an independent investigation will bring everything into the light,” Kaplan said.

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Photos courtesy of Ella Baker Center, photography by Brooke Anderson
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