Top ?: Race, Gender, Credentialism

I believe Diverse Issues of Higher Education has produced it’s annual “Top 100 Degree Producers of [insert ethnic/racial minority]” since the 1990s. The publication used to be called Black Issues in Higher Education and the earliest citation I can find in ERIC is 1994. It may predate archiving. If anyone knows that history exactly I’d be happy for it.

Anyway, it’s that time of year when the Top 100 aggregates federal data on what institutions produce degree holders by ethnicity. You can search that data by institution, field and the standard Census categories for race/ethnicity.

In the olden days, the editors used to write really solid essays to contextualize emerging trends in the data. By 2001, you see for-profit colleges emerge on the list and then rapidly ascend, from associates’ degree conferrals to doctoral almost in perfect sequence.

This year’s list continues to show strong showings from for-profit colleges. The University of Phoenix is the number one producer of African Americans with bachelor’s degrees:

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The University of Phoenix also number one in conferral of masters degrees:

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Capella University tops out producer of black doctoral degrees (which includes PhDs but also other professional doctoral degrees):

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A recent academic article positioned for-profit colleges as singular points of expanded black participation in higher education. As is often the case, as the conflict theorist sociologist with a keen interest in class reproduction, I ask: expanded black participation in what higher education and to what ends?

There are a lot of reasons black students find themselves in for-profit colleges and its not all attributed to them being stupid or bamboozled. There are a lot of ideological and structural factors at work. Forthcoming work from a book project I have been editing includes some finer grained analysis of race and gender in these trend statistics from Sandy Darity and Rhonda Sharpe.

That’s a lot of black people getting a lot of really expensive degrees. I suppose that is democratization of a sort. It just may not be the kind of democratization I’m into.

4 thoughts on “Top ?: Race, Gender, Credentialism

  1. I’m not into it, either. I work in higher ed-in an online department of a larger, campus-based department of a grad school-and we usually don’t accept transfer credit from those schools OR hire their grads to teach. I don’t want to say they’re a waste of money but I do wonder how the cost benefit analysis on them would look.

    1. Cost benefit analysis are tricky things. They’re hard to do at this group level of analysis (and no one seems inclined to do them) and evidence that individuals make decisions that way in this context is mixed:

      But there is a lot of small scale and anecdotal evidence corroborating your experience: labor market bias seems to be a thing. There’s more evidence of the transfer credit issue, for sure.

  2. Historically both public and private non-profit universities in the United States have held to missions of teaching, research, and service as foundational to their activities. Also weaved within that tapestry are contextual themes of student development being part and parcel of the higher educational experience. This is where my “side-eye” to for-profit education initiates. There seems to be no orientation toward making its graduates either civically engaged or critically conscious. Expedited pathways to a degree credential has always been their key marketing point. I see very letter forecasting of change, from that focus, for these entrepreneurial higher education ventures. However, once their bubble burst, alumni and recruits will scramble to supplement their degree by attending more traditional schools for post-graduate education. At the point, the “concrete ceiling” their education produces, will be introduced by institutions that xm5678 has identified.

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