Black students who attended colleges that serve greater shares of students of color nearly doubled their family income a decade after starting college, but they earn $8,000 less in income compared to peers at institutions with the smallest share of Black students and owe more in student loans than initially borrowed. The analysis came in a report from the Institute for College Access & Success that outlines another way to assess the value of higher education.

“Current approaches like measuring debt relative to earnings or assessing the earnings premium potential of a postsecondary degree are useful in determining whether individual institutions and academic programs are economically benefiting college graduates,” the report says. “But these approaches have one major limitation: they fail to explicitly center race.”

The Race and Economic Mobility metric takes into account median family income, median earnings and percentage of debt owed for students of color, Black students and Latinx students and then compares those indicators based on the distribution of racially marginalized students at institutions. The trends were similar for Black students and the students of color group but fluctuated for Latinx students.

“The economic conditions disproportionately affecting students of color and colleges serving them result from a history of bad policy choices and underinvestment,” the report says. “And these racist approaches have substantially hindered the educational and economic opportunities of racially marginalized communities. Therefore, any attempt to measure the true value of a college education must explicitly center race.”

TICAS president Sameer Gadkaree said in a statement that the report and other evidence that the organization is collecting show that not every student is getting the same value from their higher education experience.

“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,” Gadkaree said.

Katherine Knott

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