Examining the Status of Equity in Undergraduate Enrollments for Black, Latino and Low-Income Students at Public Four-Year Universities and Flagship Campuses
Gerald, Danette Stacie
Milem, Jeffrey F.
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This study extends prior research (e.g., Bensimon, Hao & Bustillos, 2006; Perna, et al., 2006) that has examined postsecondary access and equity in enrollments for underrepresented student groups. Descriptive statistics are used to examine the status of equity in undergraduate enrollments for Black, Latino and low-income students, as well as trends in the status of equity for these groups from 1994 to 2004, at public flagship campuses and at other public four-year universities. Multivariate regression analyses are used to test the study's conceptual model which explores whether a relationship exists between variables shaped by human capital and institutional isomorphism, and institutions' equity indices. This study advances understandings of the degree to which the public four-year sector is adequately enrolling students from underrepresented groups, the relationship between institutions' flagship status and the enrollment equity indices for various groups of, the relationship between the pursuit of prestige and equity in undergraduate enrollments, and how variables within institutions' purview of control are related to their enrollment equity indices. The study's findings suggest that Black, Latino and low-income students do not achieve equity in undergraduate enrollments at public four-year universities or flagship campuses in a majority of states. In most states, Black and low-income students are more likely to achieve equity at public four year universities than at flagships, while Latinos are more likely to achieve equity at flagship campuses than at other public four-year universities. Of all three student groups, however, low-income students are most likely to be underrepresented in undergraduate enrollments at both public four-year universities and flagship campuses. The descriptive analyses also show that, over a 10-year period, the enrollment equity indices for Black and Latino students have decreased at public four-year institutions and flagship campuses in a majority of states. Conversely, the enrollment equity indices for low-income students increased at public four-year and flagship universities in a majority of states during the same time period. However, despite the upward trend in the enrollment equity indices for low-income students, in 2004 this group achieved equity at public four-year universities in only five states and at the public flagship university in only one state. The results of the multivariate analyses suggest that a relationship exists between human capital and institutional isomorphism variables, and the enrollment equity indices for Black, Latino and low-income students. The analyses also reveal a statistically significant negative relationship between institutions' flagship status and their enrollment equity indices for Black and low-income students, but not for Latino students. The study's findings have implications for policy, practice and research. Specifically, the findings underscore the need to examine the status of equity within state-specific contexts, and to calculate separate equity indices for different institutional sectors. The study also identifies several directions for future research.